Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A January Encounter with St. Louis
By Don Iannone

Beloved river city,
nestled on the west bank
of the mighty Mississippi,
that magically snakes through you,
and connects you to other river cities.
Your roots grow deeper by the day,
while your future arches its back
like an awakening calico,
warming herself in the afternoon sun.
You've seen many dark nights,
when the moon fails to glow,
yet starlight continues to grace your soul.
Lazy snowflakes flirt with the biting westward wind...
a wind you know so well
on this late January afternoon.
You toy with me in word and image,
daring me to grasp you about the waist
and dance on tiptoes with you
into the westward-leaning sun.
South of you at Cairo,
the industrious Ohio joins your Mississippi.
At your right elbow, ancient Cahokia's 20,000 souls
have restlessly slept now for more than 600 years.
Farther south, midway to Memphis,
nobody wants to talk about New Madrid,
where the earth shakes off excess energy
on a regular basis, and where in 1811
the Mississippi reversed her flow...
a feat not since accomplished,
nor even wished.
You are a city of poets and writers,
entrepreneurs, athletes, actors and scientists.
A city prone to division at times,
but once again learning to come together
about what means most in life.
You are a city mattering to so many,
even those begrudging the redbird his special feast
on tiger last October 27th.
My simple wish for you, Oh St. Louis,
is happiness sparing none,
and may you, in your unfolding urbane glory,
never cease to amaze.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Standing Strong During the Perilous Storm
By Don Iannone

Dreams once again awaken me...
to the truth I must follow.
This time it is an old building toppled
by high winds and ominous dark storm clouds.
The old building is not just any building...
it is the iconic Cleveland Terminal Tower;
built in 1930 and standing 708 feet high.
My observation point is high above,
from the very top of a newer building,
which miraculously withstands the perilous storm.
The old Terminal Tower sways back and forth,
and eventually breaks in half,
causing its top half to crumble and fall to the ground,
exposing the building's frail interiority,
and causing panic by those in the building.
I am stunned, but instantly called
to rescue those trapped
in the fallen building.
I extend myself through
a mysterious arm of the newer building,
to help those trapped
to climb from the fallen Terminal Tower
to the stronger and newer building.
Once all are safe,
I awaken,
remembering the dream,
and feeling something powerful
has taken place inside me.
Something has changed...
perhaps died, and certainly fallen
and arisen anew within me.
The deep heartfelt question
I've carried around for several long months
has been answered:
my new calling is about being
the bridge that I am, and
helping others move
from the old and fallen
to the new and ascending.
Gratitude fills me,
as I ponder this amazing dream,
and ready for the next leg of my journey.

Monday, January 29, 2007

By Don Iannone

You walk into a place
and just know,
it's filled with secrets.
Not necessarily your secrets,
but those of others
whose mystery hides
in the secrets they leave behind.
They let you know they're there
without letting you know what they are.
At first, it seems
like a ridiculous hide-and-seek game,
but soon you realize
it's no game at all.
Our secrets give us away.
They let others know of our mystery.
They let others know
we are like them.
They let others know
we are like them...
Twenty-One Years Later Still Holding On
By Don Iannone

Mom died twenty-one years ago today
in a cancer-stained single bed
in the Reverand Oral Roberts' City of Faith Medical Center
in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
How fitting we should die in single beds--
yet another reminder, the journey home
is ours to take alone.
Mom never intended to die at fifty-eight,
but I doubt she would be ready to go at any age.
Death was Mom's constant fear,
and her fear was the death of her.
I know, because she birthed her fear into me,
her first child, born on a cold snowy January 19, 1951.
I often think back upon the last time I saw Mom alive
in that single ghost-white-sheeted bed.
I knew she would die soon,
but she still clutched a single thread of hope
that her God would spare her saying good-bye
to all she loved and all she dreaded in her life.
Her voice was hollow and empty
when I kissed her good-bye for the last time.
She was ready for her pain to be over,
but like all of us, she clutched life in any form
rather than surrendering her pain,
no matter how unbearable.
Five days later,
they called me out of a business meeting
in downtown Cleveland,
to tell me that Mom had finally lost the fight.
A large part of my life flashed before me
as I tried to imagine life without the woman
who brought me into this world.
At her funeral, my sister Diana,
my brother Doug, and I encircled each other
and cried the heaviest tears
our lives had ever known.
The tears have finally dried,
but twenty-one years later,
there is still a piece of me
that holds onto a piece of her,
and in a strange sort of way,
I feel she holds onto a piece of me.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Call of Silence
By Don Iannone

The silence rings
throughout the room
I've lived in so long
and have always called my home.
The silence shatters the mirror
in the room
I've lived in so long
and always called my home.
The silence cries lonely tears
that flood the well
just outside the house
wherein lies the room
that for so long
I've called my home.
The silence speaks my name in words
that only I can hear...
words that lead me outside the room
that for so long
I've waited for silence to come.
The silence beckons me
to follow my hungry heart
now so aroused
I can no longer live
in the room
I used to call my home.
And now outside the room
never ever alone
the silence watches over me.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Your Conversation
By Don Iannone

Your life boils down to a conversation
that started at your birth, and carries on
until the day it is over, or
when you decide you can carry it no further.
For most of us,
this conversation is like water:
trickling at times,
gushing at others, and
when it's really cold, freezing up
like a frozen pond in the midst
of a Minnesota winter.
This conversation, flowing in so many directions,
always finds its way back to what matters;
like why you suffer so
about your own self-perceptions,
or why you think
you are so unworthy of God's love.
Like all conversations, your conversation
must involve both talking and listening.
Always there must be another,
even if it's an imagined other,
for a conversation to take place.
Tune into the conversation flowing through you.
Be sure to listen first,
and once you're plugged in,
ask the hard questions;
that is those whose answers you fear the most.

Note: Inspired by David Whyte's recent seminar in Cleveland.

Friday, January 26, 2007

No Beginning or End
By Don Iannone

Maybe like me,
you have hopelessly wondered
at some point in your life
how you will know
when your spiritual journey has begun,
and when it will be over.
If so,
these words by Dogen Zenji
will bring resonance to your heart:
"There is no beginning to practice
nor end to enlightenment;
there is no beginning to enlightenment
nor end to practice."
And so,
simply find joy in life
as it comes to you,
and give up any notion
that life is a race
with any start and finish lines.
I Am Truly Blessed

I just learned this morning that I share a birthday with Dogen Zenji.

Dogen Zenji (19 January 1200–22 September 1253) was a Japanese Zen Buddhist teacher born in Kyoto, and the founder of the Soto school of Zen in Japan. He was a leading religious figure of his time, as well as being an important philosopher. Zenji is a title meaning "Zen master", while the name Dogen means roughly "Source of the Way".

Dogen was born into a noble family. Dogen's father died when Dogen was 3 years old, and his mother when he was 8, which strongly impressed Dogen with the Buddhist notion of impermanence.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mind Drift at 4:40 AM
By Don Iannone

Sitting in the Phoenix Airport at 4:40 AM,
one's mind is desperately prone to drift
to whatever one's mind can grasp onto,
and at this ungodly hour, that's not much.
No coffee shops are open yet,
and so, no cafe-adreno highs, and
that all too familiar mind-surge that kicks in,
like the second four barrels of an eight-barrel carburetor,
after that first mug of steamy hot coffee.
Are you following me?
I hope so, but don't--
because I'm not going anywhere;
not even with this driveling 4:40 AM poem.
The airport has public WiFi,
and so there is Internet connectivity,
but without coffee, and so
mental connectivity is painfully fuzzy,
with only four hours sleep, and
no coffee to accelerate the synapses needed
to complete sanity circles at 4:40 AM.
What the hell are we doing in Iraq anyway?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Awakening to Morning's Dream-Like Reality
By Don Iannone

Stand witness to the morning sun,
as she cuts through
the clutter of dreams
left behind by your spirit
on your still fluffy pillow.
Embrace your new beginning,
as the clouds part,
allowing your heart to rejoice
in the newborn light of daybreak.
Resolve yourself to the reality
that how this day seems to you
flows directly from how you really are.
Appreciate early in this day
that the spirit-spun dreams
left behind on your pillow
may be your best shot at truth,
so long as you awaken to your dreams
before you sleep once again.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Rising Above
By Don Iannone

Spread your wings,
like a bird, or angel,
and fly high above
whatever cares or woes
anchor you to earthly suffering.
Fly away,
and soar,
like the eagle you are
when God lights up your heart,
illuminating all about you.
Rise above all illusions
causing you to drift
from reality's center.
Embrace the you encountered
as all that you're not
falls aside, and
let's the real you sail away.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What is the Right Path?
By Don Iannone

There comes a time when
each of us falls prey to wonder
whether our path is the right path.
Rest assured that...
your path is your path.
Is it right?
Is it your path?
Some times it helps to remember that:
"All paths are paths to God, because,
ultimately, there is no other place for the soul to go.
Everything has come out of God,
and everything must go back to Him."
Look inside this path you follow,
and there you will find your God.

Note: Ending quote from Paramahansa Yogananda

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Cosmic Wisdom Encountered
by the Fireplace on a Saturday Night
By Don Iannone

Be as you are...
for being anything other
brings the death of you.
Be always as you can be...
for being anything other
robs you of joy--
always your best friend.
Be true to your dreams...
for they are your future,
and they set the stage
for your infinite becoming.
Be open to the moment's lingering...
for therein your soul resides.
Breathe in,
and inhale truth's fragrance,
for there...
the sweet smell of life overtakes you.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Withholding Judgment on a January Saturday Morning
By Don Iannne

A few arbitrary snowflakes tumble
from the airy gray January sky,
like lazy marshmallows,
with no certain destination.
Just like life: tumbling down into,
and through us...lacking any certainty beyond
what the moment knows and teaches us.
Einstein once said: "Before God,
we are all equally wise,
and equally foolish."
How foolish to judge the morning snow,
or its destination; let alone life
as it so happens, and dances,
like a sure-footed ballerina,
spinning on the head of a pin.

Friday, January 19, 2007

1,767,187,856 Seconds Old
By Don Iannone

Once a year, you are officially reborn,
and you become a year older,
or at least that day, your birthday,
is the tipping point people seem to remember.
Well, not everyone remembers, but some folks do,
or at least I hope a few do.
Truth is we are reborn in every budding moment,
whether we want to be or not.
Every wave of consciousness
sweeping through you
brings about a new you.
Just think if you needed a social security card,
or a driver's license for all those new yous.
There are 31, 556,926 seconds in a year...
that's a whole lot of new yous.
Imagine how that requirement would increase government spending!
And you thought we were wasting a lot of money
on the George W. Bush War in Iraq.
By the way, GWB was born in New Haven, Connecticut,
and not Texas, as his accent would suggest.
You'd think he'd treat Easterners nicer
because of his place of nativity.
Oh well, today is my birthday,
and it's a cold snowy day here in Cleveland,
matching the weather in little old Martins Ferry,
where I first popped up fifty-six years ago.
That was 1,767,187,856 seconds ago, and yeah I know...
that's a whole lot of new mes!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The New You is Ready
By Don Iannone

Is your soul asking you
to turn in a new direction:
one having more light, and
one having more heart?
Is the old you getting in the way
of the new you...
that is trying desperately
to come into being?
Is your day filled with resistance,
causing you to wonder
if you're possessed
by some demonic force?
Do you find yourself...lost,
alone, afraid, and uncertain...
more than you find yourself at peace,
assured, happy, and connected to the universe?
Listen to your soul,
and its message
that you have been reborn,
and the new you is ready.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Let the Morning's Silence Set You Free
By Don Iannone

Morning broke in silence
only the heart can hear.
Her slow steady breath enraptured
the dark sleeping trees,
whose silhouette forewarned
a shadowless January day.
It has been said...
that we must always bear in mind
that we are not going to be free,
but we are free already. And
that every idea that we are bound
is only an illusion.
Let the morning's silence set you free
as your shadow dissolves
in the morning's next breath.

Note: Quote on freedom by Swami Vivekananda

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Until the Desert Night Once Again Falls
By Don Iannone

The desert night gasps for air,
like a seething tornado howls after
its own coveted perfectly still center.
Acetylene stars hang in pitch black sky
like crystalline Cinderella slippers
on a black velvet evening gown.
Too petrified to blink, our eyes lock
with the night's penetrating stare.
We long for the moon, but fear
the dreams it may birth in us,
crippling reality before its first awkward step.
The dunes cry mournful tears,
like those of a mother losing her only child.
I pray that one of the camels will move,
breaking the suffocating silence,
whose razor-sharp knife cuts deep
into the very jugular of our being.
Morning comes not a moment too soon,
and again we walk
until the desert night once again falls.
Avoiding Our Void with Fear
By Don Iannone

What is it that we fear
when we are afraid?
Look closely.
Observe your fear.
My fear is just more mind dust
trying to fill the unfillable void
emptying me into the endless river
beginning and ending nowhere.
Why do we work so hard
to fill the void inside us?
The void stands alone.
It is the only part of us that does.
All else requires something more...
something other that comes before or after.
The void needs nothing; not even you.
Once again, what is it you fear
when you are afraid?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Observing January
By Don Iannone

Cold dark late January afternoon.
Snow clings, like fluffy lint,
on frozen tree limbs shuddering
at the thought of three more months of winter.
Daylight fades, as afternoon gives way to evening,
and light wisps of snow now flurry their way
through openings pushed by winter's icy breath.
One lone sparrow in the distance
eyes the swaying feeder,
waiting for just the right moment
to descend for an early dinner
before darkness falls,
and the new moon rises.

My heart longs to sit
by a blazing fireplace,
nursing a stiff scotch on the rocks.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Friday Night at the ER
By Don Iannone

The hospital emergency room is filled
with long sick faces most nights.
It's Friday night, and
things are much worse than normal,
as a steady stream of e-squad vehicles
pull up and drop off sick and injured people.
You wonder how some people are still alive
after such horrible things happen to them.
A young girl is brought in
with the top of a pop bottle embedded
in her blood-drenched right eye.
Down the long corridor,
desperate unanswered cries echo
long after two men's bodies are hauled off
on cold black gurneys,
draped with stiff white sheets.
I listen in as a trembling elderly woman
with matted white hair
begs the trauma nurse to promise
someone will feed her cats,
who sit faithfully on the front window sill
until they are noticed and let into the house.
As I ready to leave,
a medical team rushes past me.
It's a major trauma patient...
a gunshot wound in the abdomen.
It's bad.
I partially turn away as the team wheels
a lifeless ashen-faced young Black boy
through the side entrance door.
His bright red blood is puddled
atop the piled sheets covering his thin frame.
As I walk limply to the car,
the cold January night air grabs me like death.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Snowbanks North of the House
By Robert Bly

Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house ...
Thoughts that go so far.
The boy gets out of high school and reads no more
the son stops calling home.
The mother puts down her rolling pin and makes no
more bread.
And the wife looks at her husband one night at a
party, and loves him no more.
The energy leaves the wine, and the minister falls
leaving the church.
It will not come closer
the one inside moves back, and the hands touch
nothing, and are safe.

The father grieves for his son, and will not leave the
room where the coffin stands.
He turns away from his wife, and she sleeps alone.

And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.

The toe of the shoe pivots
in the dust ...
And the man in the black coat turns, and goes back
down the hill.
No one knows why he came, or why he turned away,
and did not climb the hill.

Friday, January 12, 2007

By James Wright

The moon drops one or two feathers into the fields.
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
There they are, the moon's young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine

Thursday, January 11, 2007

by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
On Living
By Don Iannone

Live in hope,
For there, you can transcend,
Live in thanksgiving.
For there, you reap gratitude,
Live in wonder and surprise,
For there, you find joy,
Live in beauty,
For there, you find richness,
Live in truth,
For there, your heart rejoices,
Live in balance,
For only there can you live.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On Creativity...

"Any form of art is a form of power, it has impact, it can affect change--it can not only move us, it makes us move." --Ossie Davis

"[The artist] speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation--and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear…which binds together all humanity--the dead to the living and the living to the unborn." --Joseph Conrad

"The capacity to be puzzled is … the premise of all creation, be it in art or in science." --Eric Fromm

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tempering Our Haste to Change
By Don Iannone

The world is what it is.
What we make of it
is what really matters.
Leads me to say: Not a thing different
than what already is.
It's all perfect...
in its own imperfect way.
Too often, we fight what is,
and end up wanting things,
which make us suffer
even more than we would,
than if we simply came to terms
with ourselves and what is.

Monday, January 08, 2007

People You Meet in a Convenience Store on a Cold January Sunday Morning
By Don Iannone

Freeman, he calls himself.
I asked, and he told me
his amazing story of rebirth and freedom.
His real name: John Sylvester, and
a free man now, after forty-seven long years.
All this I learned while standing in line
at the local convenience store
buying a morning newspaper
on a cold January Sunday morning.
Yes, this was Freeman's first free Sunday,
after spending seventy-five percent of his life
in an Ohio penitentiary.
No, I didn't ask him what he had done.
Why steal away a man's first free Sunday morning
in forty-seven years?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dancing with the Cobras Inside Us
By Don Iannone

Silent desperate virtues float
like dancing flames on burned down candles
in the timeless cave of the heart.
Just a feeling you say. Maybe, but
isn't it funny how habits of character--
both good and bad,
seem to linger inside us,
and dance like magical king cobras,
spitting their venom into our lives.
Destruction and regeneration, both potentialities
inside us in any given moment.
Sometimes one, and other times more...
quivering inside us, like slowly burning candles
awaiting the right breeze to ride in our direction.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Feline Tornado at 1:56 AM
By Don Iannone

Nothing rests or finds comfort in the house,
when the three tan-brown and white calicos
run amok in the late night shelter
of a fresh-blown full moon.
Nocturnality is their nature,
rushing through their feline veins
like triple X strength java coffee.
Blame their mania on global warming,
or an electromagnetic overload
from too many electrical devices in the house,
but deep down you know--it's their nature.
Look at their crazed eyes glowing in the dark,
like runway landing lights at the airport.
For God sake don't move...
your shins will be bruised below recognition,
like battered prize-fighters going into the last round.
Like tornadoes,
ripping their way across flat-ass Kansas,
the calico trio's night high must run its course.
God help us all
if the full moon lingers one more night.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Trouble Till the End
By Don Iannone

The trouble with life
is most of us live it
fearing its inevitable end.
The trouble with death
isn't dying, but
thinking we can escape it.
The trouble with time
is the fiction it writes
all over our lives.
The trouble with expectations
is they drag you screaming
from the moment, where
the only peace exists, and
where you always end up
until the last moment
passes through you.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

By Don Iannone

Sometimes it seems poems flow
like blood through you...
nourishing, revitalizing,
rejuvenating, and
animating your soul,
waiting to be called to its feet.
Sometimes you just can't miss with words...
hitting the bullseye from any angle
at any distance.
Relish your poem-prone moments,
because like sunshine in Cleveland,
they just won't last.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Untroubling Your Mind
By Don Iannone

There is no need
to keep your mind full,
like your car's gas tank.
The mind needs no help filling itself,
which by now, you so well know.
This is what the mind does naturally,
like a horse filling its stall with crap,
when it isn't walked often enough.
The whole idea is
to keep the mind fresh, empty, and
receptive to what it encounters,
without replacing the mind's emptiness
with anything, other than
its original still emptiness.
After all,
all things come from nothing, and
after rising, return
to their untroubled empty state.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Artful Living
By Don Iannone

Life is creative.
We have choices
between the moments
that paint our life canvas.
Leading an artful life
gives life its meaning.
What is art?
It's what we are.
Never perfect,
but always imperfectably ours.
Art is what we make of our lives.
For me...
Poetry is one dimension.
Relationships another.
Work still another.
Even money is art.
Remove the change from your pocket.
Look at it closely.
We make it, so money is also art.
Today is a work of art
we are in the process of creating.
Tomorrow, just a gleam in our eyes,
leaps from the creative depths within us.
Live artfully.
It all means something then.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Uneventful January 1, 2007
By Don Iannone

Two thousand and seven begins with rain,
a fire in the fireplace, good wine,
and pleasant conversation.
Thoughts stray later in the day
to work and its return tomorrow.
Amibition sleeps a quiet watch,
and thoughts of the mundane drift,
like wispy late night dream clouds,
through my head.
Nothing resolved--
already too many promises made and broken.
Joy ebbs and flows,
between the steady drizzle of rain,
and parched words seeking sentences.
Just another day, falling upon us
moment by moment.
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