Everything Is In A Look

Everything ã1999
written 1972

Arthur Rosch

Everything is in a look.
Yet still, everything
is in looking away.
Unable to breathe suns from each other,
we turn to contemplate
lonely space,
and wash our hearts
with what warmth remains.
And again, that look,
rending the cosmos,
pours from the vat of creation
in our eyes.
The unspeakable love dashes its silences
to death,
against the perimeters of our exiles.
Yet, and there is always a yet,
to be born, to be resurrected
in a touch. The miracle is
that my skin was made to meet your skin,
that unknowable lightnings are our servants
to carry the burdens of love and loneliness.
Somehow my universe gathers energy
and spreads, with the vague arms of an amoeba
to some call on the horizon.
No matter that horizons always receed;
for if you too were to will your stars and dust
towards the furthest reach,
perhaps we would meet on some plain
lit by the ecstasy of celestial collision.
And perhaps we must die
to know each other.

Look! I would fling off my skin
like a cloak,
to show you the sun that burns within.
But as it is, only my face,
and what desperate radiations that can pass
through this terrible cloak
may reach you.
Know me! Know me!
Not by my escapes into smiles
but by my facelessness,
too full to shine,
too lonely to weep.
We are infinity
yet the mystery is always a deeper note
than we can hear.
Hearken to the remotest timbre,
it rises from our source
but hides its silence.
Listen to the mask of music,
behold the facade of suns,
yet be ready to fling them away
to peer into the depth beyond depth.
Love only wears faces to entice us
in our simplicity.
God dons the robe of the cosmos
that we may not plunge into her nakedness
before we ourselves are naked love.

A Worthy Destination

A Worthy Destination
Jan 28, 2003
revised Feb 15, 2010

I haven’t found peace.
I don’t own peace,
rent peace,
buy or sell peace,
though I do encounter peace
from time to time.
Peace is like a friend
who comes for a surprise visit.
As my life takes on a shape
in which peace feels comfortable
I see peace more often.
Peace is not easily found in this world.
Peace comes like an accident,
a good mishap.
Peace lands in my heart like
a bird that’s raised its young
and is looking for a new place to nest.
I thought I would know peace by now,
but it’s taking longer than I expected.
The biggest problem is my mind.
It’s like a bag turned inside out, its contents
are the world, spilled and crazy.
Peace is not comfortable
in the world. When I’m with peace, I feel as though I’ve brought a guest
to the kind of party
that’s broken up by the cops after midnight.
I need to make peace more welcome here.
I should send peace an invitation, find a good solid tree
where peace can perch and sing
before taking flight
to a more worthy destination.

The Message Of The Dogs

The Message Of The Dogs
Art Rosch

November 18, 2009

Somewhere there is a dog barking.
When I hold my breath and listen
carefully, I can just hear it,
high pitched, squeaking, urgent.
My dogs hear it,
they understand the message,
they bark it onward,
to the dog next door, who barks
to the dog down the street
who barks to the dog in the next
street, who barks to the dogs
in the next town, who bark it
to the dogs in the big city,
who bark it across the state.
All these dogs barking,
started by a frantic Chihuaua
lonely for her people,
fearing they’ll never return.
The dogs across the state carry it on,
they bark across the rivers,
tell the dogs of the whole continent.
In the Pacific, a dog being walked
down a polished deck
barks
and soon all the dogs on the ship are barking.
No one knows what set them off,
barking to annoy everyone, waken peaceful sleepers,
startle amorous lovers,
distract the crew from their work.
Dogs must bark, for this is an urgent matter,
a Chihuahua’s terror. Soon
all the dogs on all the ships, all the trains, all the planes are barking.
Here at home, my dogs continue,
none of my training can stop them,
the bark is more important than human need
for peace and quiet.
Soon the bark has reached Alaska. The sled dogs,
always barking, change their urgent cry of “let’s run let’s run”
to the tune of “ someone please
comfort cousin Chihuahua.”
Russia’s eleven time zones come alive with barking.
Vladivostok to Petersburg,
Irkutsk to Moscow, Russia’s dogs pass it on,
north to the White Sea,
south to the Black Sea.
Soon, Poland’s dogs are barking,
Germany’s dogs are barking,
France’s dogs sniff and lift their heads,
carefully, decide whether to eat or bark
and yes, they bark. No translation is needed.
Barking is universal, dog emotions are powerful.
Even the wild dogs with their different language
stand up and bay,
the foxes and jackals yip
wolves and coyotes sing.
The bark reaches Easter Island, Tahiti, and
Rangaroa, bark bark, bark bark, roars and squeals and yips
join together, across the earth, dogs are barking
and people are crying “quiet!”, “shut up!”, “shhhhhh”, “No barkies!”
They blow on whistles, snap
clickers, squirt water, shake cans of rocks but the world’s dogs bark.
The whole dog universe
sounds a call that flies with the winds, rises into the clouds to travel
far distances, for one of their kind is distressed and dogs are the most loyal
of creatures.
It is a dog’s duty to bark until the message has circled the world
and the Chihuahua’s people feel a subliminal urge, a stab of worry,
an urge to hurry
home, home, quick unlock the door, Ceecee’s gone crazy
the neighbors are furious (dammit why don’t you teach that dog
some manners). They thought she was trained but they leave her
alone, long and often, they think it doesn’t bother her
they don’t know Ceecee’s terror has gone around the world and
she was invoking the dog power
to bring her people home, and they returned, early,
canceled plans out of vague worry
knowing nothing of the way
the hue and cry of ten billion dogs
was barked across all the time zones of the earth to help
Ceecee bring home the people she loves.

Breath

Your breath has a shape
unique
like a fingerprint
no two alike
in all the world.
Everything about you
is found in your breath
all your lives
and deaths,
all your thoughts.
Think of your body
as gone,
only breath remains
it has an in stop
and an out stop
and contains so much more
than air.
If we could know one another
by our breaths
if we could see the human crowd
as a throng of breaths,
nothing else,
hello jagged anxious breath
how are you
hello smooth relaxed breath
nice to see you
the human race is
a breath collective
today some will arrive
today some will depart
lungs are merely homes
like hands fill gloves
everything sacred, every dark secret
lives in the breath
and when it leaves your body
it is a system of information
like a letter full of you,
air mail, breath mail.
I would tell you more of this
if I knew any more
but this is as far as I’ve got
in learning the nature of breath.

A Conversation With God

Lord, my whole life has been a conversation with you. It has been a pleading, praying, thanking, questioning, frustrating conversation. Though I am not answered in words, you answer me in every experience that occurs. There is no issue about my faith, about whether or not I accept your existence. It is not conditioned by what happens to me in my life. I don’t need good things and miracles to have faith. All I need do is look around at the world and I see an abundance of evidence. Without you and the great wind of your love, there would be, simply, Nothing. Instead, we have a great passionate world, a universe full of drama and strife, of burning stars, of miracles and mysteries. One thing I can see, Lord, is that you have made a universe that is not boring.
I thirst for truth, but truth is not an easy thing to grasp. I don’t want to be this way, the way I am: addicted, afflicted, incomplete, emptied out, wounded and afraid. I don’t want to be this way. But I am. These conditions go along with being human. Being alive and made of this material stuff is to be lost in a jungle, where spirit hides behind things and yet is out in the open for those with clear sight. My sight is not clear. It is obscured by my needs for so many things. I need comfort and enjoyment and every desire leads to a battleground, a wrestling with a thousand demons. I need truth, but I fear truth. I hold it at arm’s length lest it turn out to be monster with sharp teeth, about to rip my personality to shreds and throw me down into madness. I am afraid that I can’t handle things the way they are.

I am like a fairy tale creature following a trail of crumbs through the forest. Somewhere in this darkness there is a home in a clearing, a warm place to feed and rest and abide. I wait for the appearance of that abiding place, though it may not appear until after I die. If that is what is decreed, that I wander through the years of my life in a constant search for truth that is never satisfied, so be it.
My faith does not diminish. Nor does my fear. Faith and fear seem strange bedfellows. Both seem constant to my condition. Both conceal the same transcendant animal, hidden amid the trees and vines. Both counsel me to leave hope at the entrance to the forest, and proceed in spite of the hopelessness of the cause.

Such is a true conversation with you, God.

Ordinary Consciousness

There is no ordinary consciousness.
There is something we do every day,
get in our cars, go to work,
get food, pay the credit cards,
raise our families.
Billions of people
do it, thinking it is ordinary.
That is consciousness,
and nothing about consciousness
is ever ordinary.
Sometimes I long for visions
of sudden grace,
in the middle of the ordinary day,
oh how I wish I could be taken
to a visionary understanding, right now,
and know what is real, what it’s all about.
I should be careful what I wish for.
If I were to be taken to that magic land
I would also be held accountable
for my mistakes. Paradise
has a price for admission.
Paradise is Truth; in Paradise
there is no lingering trail of lies and crimes.
In Paradise, all bills have been paid.
I am grateful for ordinary consciousness;
I’m still behind on some of my accounts,
and consciousness knows exactly what I owe,
and to whom.
That is not so ordinary after all.

The Kingdom


I wrote this poem ten years ago.  Its tone reminds me of the Song of Songs, from the Old Testament,

King Solomon’s ode to erotic love.  I put it into my novel, “The Gods of The Gift” as part of an exchange of
poems that occurs among my characters as they cross a vast desert


Am I ready to love?
How much more of the perfume of my soul
must I exude, before she tastes its waft upon the air
and is drawn to me?
 How can I be patient,
when to feel the heat of her body
close to mine
 is as miraculous as the sunrise?
When will I feel her hair in my hand?
 When will I touch her cheek with my lips?
 It is not the great rush of consummation
 that calls me, but the simplest gestures.
 I will smell her breath, and my blood will triumph.
 I will brush her hair, and feel the softness of her life
 in my hands.
 I will know the curve of her throat,
the music of her voice.
Her hand will be a warm spring
always rising from the depths
heated by love.                      
Her touch will put me on a silken throne.
 I will awake each morning eagerly
with the salt of her in my mouth.
My days will be a song of gratitude
that she has come,
my nights a roving through untold treasures.
Her love will restore to my lover’s heart
the magic kingdom of childhood.

Prophet

Oh lord, oh lord,
what has befallen me?
That which I hoped to make straight
only becomes more twisted.
That which should be understood
only becomes more strange.
How did I come to this unexpected shore?
And what am I to make of the walking wreck of myself?
It is a mixed gift, this life, it is hard
to feel so completely lost
in complexity not of my making.
I wanted to be a radiance
but I am more like a garbage can
tipped by a racoon in predawn hours.
I pick myself up,
I sweep my contents
into a tidy pile,
but each time I think to rest,
I am again overturned.
I speak to you, o lord,
like the wounded Jew,
like the baffled bloodied prophet,
like the broken fated sage.
I take help from any quarter,
even those with dangerous denizens.
I take comfort with the scorpion,
I sleep with diseases,
I mark my worth with the vague knowledge
that I am somehow loved.
Still I marvel and lament
at my scattered state,
at my continued surprise that I am alive,
that I move my limbs with some dim purpose,
that I have any faculty left to cry out to you.
Oh lord, what has befallen me?
You see, I have nothing but questions.
It could be much worse, I freely admit.
It could be much better,
I ruefully entreat.
Pieces of me have gone numb.
Whole continents of my psyche have been submerged,
drowned, forgotten.
I am the world I have made.
I am a man, dreadfully incomplete,
unwilling to meet the terror,
reluctant to behold the fire,
shrinking always from the worst case,
taking the hand of any wiser being,
like a lost child who needs to be led,
anywhere, as long as it seems to be
a worthy destination.
I shall try now, lord, to snatch a bit of sleep
from the bottom of the night’s cup.
I’m glad we had this little talk.
I thank you, uncomfortably,
like one who has opened the wrong gift
at the wrong party.
Oh, is this for ME?
I’m not quite sure it fits,
I’m not sure how to use it.
I’ve broken it a little
but it still works.  See?
I’ve tried, I’ve hopped on one foot,
I’ve danced insanely.
I’m still here,
waiting for your soft voice
to bring me peace.

My Girl Suffers

My girl suffers, and sometimes goes far away
where I can’t see her pain.
I can only see the sign of her pain
like the tracks of a large animal that has passed by.
I am not a great tracker, but she is my girl.
I do everything to relieve her suffering
but it isn’t enough.  It’s my best.
She always gives her best when I suffer,
and I never know when my pain will leave signs
like a large animal that has passed by.
She is the better tracker, her senses are finer.
That’s what we do for each other,
because we love one another,
even when the love hurts, because the loved one hurts.
My girl suffers too much, but she is so strong;
she bears her pain with dignity and sorrow.
The world suffers and the world’s suffering
makes more pain for my girl to bear,
because that’s who she is: every animal, every tiny bird or mouse,
all the life and death that comes and goes,
my girl knows, feels, deals, for her it is all real.
The world’s suffering is folded into her suffering,
her suffering is  folded into the world’s suffering,
they have ways of being the same pain.
Some people are more expert at pain than others.
My girl is an expert.  She is much stronger than I am.
When I was young I learned to duck, to watch out.
My girl trusts too much, and she doesn’t duck.
I help because I can, because I  duck so fast.
My girl suffers, and sometimes goes far away, far away,
because she must.  I leave the gates, the doors, the bridges open,
so she can find her way back.
I am not strong enough to go where she goes,
but I keep the lights on and the fire burning,
for when she returns, smiling,
playful and childlike, once again.