Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Epic of Mandala: Canto II

Mandala stopped and watched the protest for
A while, and read the signs demanding more:
more social justice and more distribution
Of wealth. Mandala thought, ‘Here’s much confusion.’
“My friends,” he said. “Do you not know that wealth
Can never be distributed? No health
Can be achieved by making sugars fair
In where they’re sent. The brain would whither. Care
Must first be made to understand what you
Must do if you’d achieve your goals. What true
Purpose is it you would achieve? Do you
Want wealth for all, or mere equality?
The first will make unequal and yet free;
The second with spread poverty and each
Must get unequal treatment. Who would teach
The lie that otherwise could be the case?
You’d break some legs so all could win the race?”
The crowd turned angry and began to shout.
“You’d dare defend the rich? You’d best get out
Of here, you racist, sexist, homophobe.”
“I’d love to stay here just so I could probe
The reasoning behind such accusations.
Is that what lies behind these demonstrations?
Your racist, sexist, homophobic thought
Breeds guilt that you project on others. Ought
You spend some time reflecting so that you
Can cure yourself and to yourself be true?”
The crowd began to move toward him, so
Mandala backed away. “It’s time to go.
Your ears are not prepared for truth. I hope
They are one day. But truth is hard to cope
With. May you fail so you’ll succeed. Goodbye.”
Mandala, saddened, left them with their lie.

The crowd continued yelling as he left.
He wondered at his failure, how bereft
Of influence his words had been. He came
To a café and saw inside a claim
Upon his time he always gave: his friend
Matthew was there. Mandala could depend
On him to listen, so he went inside
And sat, invited, by his favorite guide.
Mandala told his friend what happened just
Two blocks away. Matthew said, “Well, I trust
You learned a thing or two. Don’t waste a word
On people who insist that the absurd
Is possible or anything we’d wish.
They are the kind of people who think fish
Are soluble because they wish it so.”
Mandala said, “In truth, I think I know
Why they are out there. Not because of what
Their signs proclaim. I promise that is but
The surface.” “Well, then, tell me why they’re there.
It’s lack of social justice, they declare.”
“They protest so they will not have to think,
And all the while they fear that they will sink
To filling all their time with labor. They
Are both afraid to work and fear a day
Of contemplation lest they face the fact
That playtime’s over and they’ll have to act
And take responsibility for what
They do. They fear their conscience. It will cut
The fog of power they’ve been taught to lust
For, let embrace them, until they won’t trust
Each other, let alone one who would dare
To disagree with them – they cannot bear
The thought of being wrong – and thus they break
The natural social bonds, all for the sake
Of making social bonds that they believe
Are better. Why? Who knows? They’re too naïve.
In ignorance they will proclaim their will –
And they’ll use force to make sure we’ll fulfill
Their fever-dream of earthly heaven well,
And do not care their dreams all lead to Hell.”
Then Matthew asked, “You really think they all
Protest because they fear to hear the call
Of consciousness and conscience? That they fear
What leisure and thus thought will make them hear?”
Mandala nodded. “Don’t we fill our days
With work and noise? Our music, T.V. raze
Our thoughts when we won’t give ourselves the time
To think. Instead, we only always chime
In with the crowd and sheepishly declare
Our individuality is there
When all we ever do is go along.
We only ever sing another’s song.”
“You proclaim ‘we’ – do you include yourself?”
“I’m trying hard to get off of that shelf.
But don’t we always just accept most that
We hear? The knowledge which our brains grow fat
Upon was almost all created by
Another – we don’t test it all. Deny
What almost everyone believes is true
And you will find your social life is through.
They’ll treat you like you like to murder, rape –
And all because we are a social ape.
And yet, if we don’t sometimes break away,
It’s human progress that will always pay.”
“And what if you don’t think that we progress?”
“When you deny reality, the mess
Resulting will make you deny the arts
And culture, see just unconnected parts
That have to consciously be organized,
That government is what has harmonized
The social world. Too many think that force
Is needed to keep each man on his course.”

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Epic of Mandala: Canto I

Mandala stood and waited for the light
To change so he could cross the street. His right
Hand held his black umbrella to keep off
The mist. The storm’s rain turbulanced the trough
Between the sidewalk and the concrete street,
The remnants streaming in chaotic beat
Into the drains below his feet. The cars
Slowed at the yellow, red electric stars
That ordered inefficiently the spins
Of endless satellites. The crowd begins
To move. Mandala moves with it. He’s budged
Into the street and as he walks he’s nudged
In random walks as he flows down the walk.
He thinks that he and Barbara have to talk.

Mandala lived with Barbara, and they’d been
Together through his Ph.D., from when
They met in his first year when he was reading
His poetry. The coffee shop was needing
More patrons, and they opened evenings up
For open mics at night. She had a cup
Of mocha which she sipped in rhythm to
Manadala’s rhymed iambic verse. She grew
Enamored with him with each rhyming line,
Until she almost felt his wisdom shine.
(It hardly hurt that he was handsome, whole
Addition to the beauty of his soul.)
he finished and she went to him, and they
Had been together from that very day.
And now Mandala was prepared to dine
With her tonight, Antonio’s at nine.

Mandala could not learn enough, and so
His education started with the low
And least complex and moved into the high
And most complex, from math, the simple lie,
Precise approximation of the truth,
A sentiment that many thought uncouth,
Through quantum physics, then through chemistry –
He also majored in biology.
An economics Master’s he achieves,
Then Ph.D. in the humanities,
With major publications in them all,
He nonetheless felt he had hit a wall.
The only time that Mandala felt free
Was any time he wrote his poetry,
Disorder that exploded in the form
That helped contain the dialectic storm.

The rain engaged the waves of hair that fell
Down to his collar, stringing it. To dwell
Upon his past with her, the problems he
Would have without her, warm nostalgia’s plea
Combined with comfort’s soothing voice could not
Dissuade him from his course. This was his lot –
He knew what he must do – he heard the voice
That led him well. He had the choice
To listen or ignore it, yet he knew
Ignoring it would make deep pain his due
And he would end up doing what he should,
And only then would his life become good.
He learned his lesson the way we all learn:
by suffering. All people seem to spurn
Advice from everyone. Mandala was
The same, and so he suffered, as one does
When one ignores what one knows one must do
And wanders off the path one knows is true.
Mandala wandered once the woods – those free
Of messiness, of pure geometry.
But he was told, “My son, it’s time to go.
The world must grow complex so you an know
The way the universe became to be –
You must reflect the university.”
But he resisted, wanting to remain
In heaven’s harmonies. He would not deign
Consider messiness a worthy thing
To understand, to study, or to sing.

And so he fell in love with one who would
Refuse to love him back. He thought he could
Convince her, but she said she was in love
And would not leave her boyfriend. His love of
She who he could not have drew him away
From all his friends, into a forest gray
With shadows, where he wandered, then alone
The first time in his life. The trees were bone,
The ravens watched with eyes of stone, the sky
And leaves were textured, greyed the same. A fly
Annoyed him with the only sound. The path
Wound down into a valley where his wrath
Turned in upon itself, and when he saw
A deep abyss, he looked into its maw.
The empty blackness stared at him, he fell,
And would have kept on falling into Hell
Had not a rope been flung to him. He reached
And grabbed the rope before the darkness leached
His soul from him. Mandala felt himself
Pulled up until he reached the abyss shelf
And aw a bushy-mustached man, his hand
Outstretched to help Mandala onto land.
“It’s fortunate you did not have that far
To fall,” the man said. “You’re a dancing star
Who neither knows he is a star and still
Must learn to dance. You have to climb the hill
Before you now before you can shed light
On others’ paths to tear away their night.”
“You throw me in the pit to help me out?”
Mandala asked. “You fill me full of doubt
Then try to give me confidence to ruse
Above the rest?” “Of course. He who denies
Me, I will come to them. You fell, I came.”
Mandala breathed a long, low sigh. “Your fame,”
The man continued, “Will increase if you
Learn to embrace and speak to all what’s true.”
“I always speak what’s true. I speak in math.”
“A seeming hard, but really simply path.
You have to grow into complexity
And not get weighed down by your gravity.
A single poem has much more to say
Than all the man you know or ever may.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mandala said.
“There’s much more that you need inside your head,”
The man continued. “Physics up through life,
The brain, the social sciences, the strife
That drives complexity, humanities.”
A jasmine scent embraced them on a breeze.
The man said, “Someday soon you’ll see the truth.
And now, I hope you don’t find me uncouth,
But I must leave you know so you’ll find you
Beneath the things you learned – there lies what’s true.”
“You start off well, then leave with a cliché?”
“It’s really all the same from day to day.
You surely know the song, ‘It’s All Been Done,’
The verse ‘There’s nothing new under the sun’?”
Mandala said, “Now wait a minute, there.
That’s patently untrue. With every pair
Of paradox resolved in constant strife
The universe complexified to life
And man, whose brains complexify with time
And social density, to reduce crime
And deaths by war across our history
As liberal social orders make us free,
Emerged to understand that universe,
Ourselves, as much as we are bridge and nurse
To more complex and thus more beautiful
New forms of thought and being in each skull.”
“My lovely boy, you’re wise enough to know
All that, so what is it that dims your glow?
Closed mind, and system, falls to entropy –
Both open both, increase complexity.”
With that, the man then walked away to seek
The crest so he could leap from peak to peak.

But that was many years ago. He grew
To learn to love the chaos, for he knew
It would self-organize without his thought
To pressure it into new form – it brought
Itself about, much as the thought that pulled
Him to decide that it was time he culled
His life of Barbara. What he had to do
Required that he dissolve any glue
That held him to a certain time or place.
He hoped that he could cut her off with grace.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Epic of Mandala: Prologue in Rose’s Dream

The breeze blew through the window cool and Rose
Slipped slowly through to vivid-dreaming doze.
And in the dream she found a coiling path
That curled there by a complex fractal math.
And ferns unfurled around her, rising high
Around her as a voice said, “Don’t deny
The purpose I have given you. You are
The one I chose to give birth to a star,
A source of light for unwise days to come,
A time when men are deaf and blind and dumb
To wisdom, thinking they can know what they
Cannot, that there’s no limit to the day,
That knowledge, truth no longer matters, and
Their good intentions are enough. The sand
Of foolishness and ignorance has filled
The land. They think the world is as they’ve willed.
And so I send a son to you to bring
A message of true unity, to sing
Of knowledge and of wisdom and the goal
Of unifying both in beauty. Soul
Of beauty is the goal. One day your son
Will bring this truth as a bright golden light
To man – he’ll be a source of fright, and sight.”
The sky was filled with butterflies that stirred
The air into a hurricane. A bird
Then rose and with its wings it washed away
The sparkling insects form the sky to play
Among the leaves. The bird then spread its tail
In Fibonacci eyes, let out a wail
So that that Rose began to cry. The tears
Rolled down her cheeks, the bird-ails filled her ears,
The tears fell to the dust and from them grew
Up twinning briars to a tree that drew
Up to the sky, then bloomed a single rose.
The voice said, “From this single flower grows
A rebirth of the human universe.
He’ll meet with praise and he will have men curse
The very air he breathes. And thus his name
Will be Mandala, as it is the same
As that which hides the hidden principles
Of growth and change that’s realized in the full
And agnostic tension of the pair
In paradox, a truth he will declare.”
Then all went dark, and rose, with echoed voice,
Said, “If that is your will, that is my choice.”
And rose was standing on the beach, the sea
Was rosing in the sunrise. She felt free.
And standing on the shore, the waves would break
Around her feet. And then she was awake.

Friday, December 21, 2012


The antichrist was given his appointment on this day,
A day which marks an end, a turn, beginnings which betray
A darkness masquerading as the light, carnal delight
Devouring the sheepish goats, those knowing what is right
And choosing, nonetheless, against the right. No, ignorance
Is no excuse for them – they know, and yet they choose to dance
In darkness lighted only by the morning star. They choose
With knowledge, full enlightenment, and yet promote a ruse
To shackle us, indebt us to indentureship, inflate
Us to docility so, mindless, we’ll accept our fate.
The seen is glorified above the unseen and true love
Is denigrated, sacrifice replaced by force, the dove
Of peace considered foolishness, and reason
Is twisted in the gales that rise as mankind changes season.

Beloved, you must follow me into the roiling seas
To battle beasts that fill the waves and ignore all our please.
Alone, I would not stand a second, but together we
Are sword and shield, a glowing light – before us he will flee.
He cannot stand our knowledge and he cannot stand our choices
To act, react, and interact and, singing, raise our voices
In praise and joy and peace. We’ll dare to love and embrace shame
And have the trust of trade, and we will not fear to proclaim
Allegiance with the beautiful, with virtue and the true,
The wine, the bread, the meat of life and soul, the spirit blue
With light and dryness, wisp white so far away and cold,
It seems, at times. But don’t lose faith, the faith that makes us bold
Enough to say that we believe and that we love each other
As we would love and cherish our own father, son, and mother.

The spirit of the antichrist has come to earth again
To change the world, to redirect us, and to make us sin –
We’ll miss the mark and only hit it when there’s nothing left
For us to do, and then we’ll shoulder the whole world and heft
It up, for darkness is not our eternal, earthly fate.
No, those who live a life of peace and trust will see the gate
That opens to another world, a real and promised land
Where beauty, justice, wealth, and truth are freed from the demand
Of power, which destroys and fosters hate and sows the weeds
That kill the complex ecosystem of our lives and deeds.
Divisions aren’t divine; with antichrist we will be split
And atomized, reduced to cogs to make sure we can fit
Into the abysmal machine of his selfish design
Instead of the spontaneous growing of the divine.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Frosty the Hitman (c. early 1980s)

Once upon a time, when they were children, my brother, Todd, and his best friend, Joe Gamblin, came up with a parody of "Frosty the Snowman." I don't know if they remember it, but I do:

Frosty the Hitman
Was a very unmerry soul
With an M16
And lots of ammo
And two eyes of bullet holes
Down through the village,
With a shotgun in his hand
Shooting here and there,
All around the square,
Saying, "Shoot me if you can!"

There must have been some magic
In that old handgun they found
For when they placed it in his hand
He began to shoot them down

Oh, Frosty the Hitman
Was a very unmerry soul
With an M16
And lots of ammo
And two eyes of bullet holes!

Bang-ity bang-bang
Bang-ity bang-bang
Look at Frosty go
Bang-ity bang-bang
Bang-ity bang-bang
Full of bullet holes!

On the Richardson Christmas Village

(With Apologies to Johnny Mathis)

It's beginning to look like postmodern Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
You've got Existential angst and Derrida to thank'st
For the ironic references to snow.
It's beginning to look like postmodern Christmas
Putting off all fun
As we stand in line to see the nose that's artificially
Slapped on with paint -- you're done.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Love and Paris

Another night in Paris in my mind,
Another night of romance by the light
That dances on the Eifel Tower. Find
An iron chair beside me on this night.

I don't deny the romance is the ghosts
Of writers, painters, and philosophers --
Of all the beauty that the city boasts,
Their spirit is what in my spirit stirs

A love for someplace I have never been.
But isn't that what romance always was?
To sit in cafes drinking wine again,
The weight of French a mostly vocal buzz.

I gave up Paris romance, it is true --
But gained a lasting love by choosing you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Dancing Stones

The stone field lies in chaos in the bare,
Near-freezing, dry, sunlit Antarctic air.
But as the summer ends, the freezing cold
Of night and warmth of day slowly unfold
Their fingers so that they can play a tune
Upon the water, melt to ice, the moon
Inviting all the happy stones to dance
In days and weeks from sizes spread by chance
To loops and circles, order brought to life
By stones of different sizes and the strife
Of freeze and thaw, of stretching, pushing rocks
Around as though they're dancing cranes in flocks
That love to dosado and prominade
Themselves into an order that seems odd
To those who think all order must be made
Exclusively through consciousness that played
The chaos into order. Their white bones
Will not outlast the always-dancing stones.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Melina's Haiku

My dad can go in
A car and we see yellow
Sun and a pink pig.

by Melina Keridwen Camplin, age 5
the only help from her father (me) was in spelling the word "yellow"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thor's Day

The land left right of Monday told
Me once of time's asymmetry,
How matter matters more as cold
Sings liquid crystal to a tree.

And so it sang its mournful tune
Of all its tragic future past,
Displayed its properties at noon,
That being first will make it last.

And out of all the time it's rent
From just this side of Sunday soon
Will see its profit will be sent
To benefit the hungry moon.

The lunatic has now declared
To all its feathered plan, so bold --
That broken lives will soon be paired
With wealth as we dig bottled gold.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Thank You

When I come up behind you and I hug
You tight to me and kiss your neck and bug

You when you're washing dishes, that's my thanks.

When I come grab you, kiss you, hug you when
You're washing, drying, folding clothes, it's then

In all my actions that I'm giving thanks.

I do not always say it in the rush
Of children, work, and noise -- there is no hush

When I can be so thoughtful to speak, "Thanks."

So I apologize for every time
That I so thoughtlessly commit the crime

Of failing to say what I feel: my thanks.

I thank you for my children. Thanks for all
You do. I thank you for your random call

That says you love me too. For that, my thanks.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Rumored Pa

The man that's rumored is my dad
Is rumored to have died.
If I but knew, I'd sure be sad,
But tears have been denied.

A hundred men have daddied me,
Some only for a day
And for that reason I am free
So ma can hear me say

Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know
Which of the men who shared your bed
Would stay to see me grow?
I never knew the man I missed
Was his hair black as crow?
Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know?

I don't know all the kids I've had
There's more than I can count
Each woman's just a fading fad
You're why I'm no account

Perhaps I ought to mend my ways
I do all that I can
But I am more than just like you
I am my daddy's man

Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know
Which of the men who shared your bed
Would stay to see me grow?
I never knew the man I missed
Was his hair black as crow?
Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know?

And so I spread my dad's gray eyes
I give out his dark skin
So many women full of lies
The bearers of my kin

Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know
Which of the men who shared your bed
Would stay to see me grow?
I never knew the man I missed
Was his hair black as crow?
Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know?

Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know
Which of the men who shared your bed
Would stay to see me grow?
I never knew the man I missed
Was his hair black as crow?
Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know?

Why did I never know my pa?
Why did you never know?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Shimmering Heat

In these apocalyptic times
Our thoughts must turn to culture
It seems to hover over us
And circle like a vulture

But it has not picked our bones clean
There's politics for that
The heat of hatred bleaching us
The teethmarks of a rat

Upon our femur ends the last
Sign that a living thing
Had been near us could stand our taste
Would want what we could bring

Be gone mere strife I wish to love
The unity of each
More dialectic poetry
Is what I need to teach

Myself myself and me of you
And you  you and me me
And how our actions make complex
This world to make us free

So land upon me bird of death
Who lives when others die
And carry me up off this earth
To join your sullen cry