Watching Sleep

Last night I counted your breaths while you slept.
Towards morning, I lost count, but
you awoke a few minutes later,
so I rounded the number off
and privately recorded your many thousands of sleeping
breaths, in the journal of love I am making for you.
This entry:  the night I counted your breaths while you slept.
I wanted to do this.
I wanted to have a secret way of loving you,
so that all the known ways I love you
can have a private underside,
a place where love is always new and mysterious.
I know that you count my breaths while I am awake.
Somewhere, inside the often-painful activity of your mind,
you find a peaceful grotto, and there
you count my breaths, without even knowing you are doing it.
Your love is so constant, 
it is a place I can go where fear does not exist,
has never existed.
I must practice harder than you, to love.
I must keep awake and make vigil, sometimes,
so that,  while you dream,
I am doing something important,
being the clock of your breath,
helping you sleep.
I can do nothing more loving for you
than to help you sleep.
You always wanted someone to watch over you.
You felt abandoned and alone.
With this secret, I heal you.
I count the long slow breaths, I catch at the sudden twitches,
I invent words to accompany your dream-mumbled incoherences.
I might show you this poem, if it will make you happy.
I wanted it to be a secret.  But tomorrow night, or the next,
I will do it again, or I will do something else,
find another way to love you,
something only I could think of doing,
and only you could understand
why I have done it. 

In The East

In the east
tourists release caged birds,
they open the wicker door,
the finch steps bravely forward,
pfff, wings flutter, up in the air,
gone, little bird gone.

The kestrel strikes
in seconds

as it makes it rounds
above the marketplace.
This quaint custom
is a symbol of the soul’s liberation
from the endless rounds of death and rebirth.
The tourists don’t see the kestrel
they miss the next logical step.
When they free the yellow finch
they are feeding the kestrel and its young.
They think they have practiced virtue,
they pay a few rupees and move on,
that the joyous flutter of wings
is not a yellow finch
restored to its free wild life
but a kestrel feeding its young
on our ignorance.

Where Am I?

Where Am I?
Feb 19, 2010

Where Am I?
Feb 19, 2010

Where am I?
Yes, I know…California, planet earth,
solar system, milky way, local galactic group,
Great Wall Galactic structure, further strings and shapes of galaxies
in structures too big to see, yet, part of a thing
called Universe, and then , then…
where am I? Large or small, or in between?
fractal geometry reveals that size
is meaningless, macro is the same exact shape
as micro, and if that is true,
the “where” of am I could put me at the very center
of….of what? Not too big, not too small, just right?
If our universe “banged” some fourteen billion years ago,
then evolved into the shape we now see,
this universe is temporary, it’s passing on through,
truckin’ down the road. What’s fourteen billion years?
Nothing much. An expanse of time. It’s not Forever.
So where am I? Let’s leave alone the “what am I?” question.
I have a feeling that the Where will reveal the What and the What
will reveal the Where, but man, this thing is complex and subtle.
Wrap your mind around the most brilliant idea EVER thought,
an idea that dwarfs Einstein’s most stunning insight,
an idea that has Steven Hawking playing with wooden blocks
that have letters carved in simple relief, “A”, “B”, “C”,
that’s very good Steven, very good Albert
very good deepest thinkers of our world,
you’ve gotten us off our tricycles,
but we don’t know where we are, don’t know what we are,
and surely don’t know why we are,
so it looks like I’m going to have to keep asking,
I mean doesn’t EVERYBODY ask?
Maybe not everybody but a lot of us would like to know
and we put all these frustrations into books
and call them religions and maybe they soothe the frustration a little
but they don’t put a face on my location in the scheme of things
so I just want to grab this super smart Intelligence, Force, Creator,
Joker, whatever it is, grab it by the collar and say just like a movie tough guy,
“Hey! Where am I? I want some answers! Quit fucking around!
Can’t you show us a formula, an artifact, a document that’s less ambiguous than Koran Bible Torah, send an angel or flying saucer person, or something to change me from frustrated to fulfilled?
Can’t you do that right now, huh?”
Uh oh. I know I’m not as smart as Einstein much less this thing that casually
tosses universes out like a tennis ball machine, bang!
whoops we missed, Bang! There it goes again. Universes all over the place that support life, no, encourage life!
This is not someone you grab by the collar and get tough with, anything could happen. And does. Everything happens!
It makes me kind of tired. My eyelids droop from the effort of all this
ravenous curiosity.
I think I’ll go to sleep. Maybe I’ll find the answer in a dream.
Wouldn’t it be funny if I had that dream,
and then couldn’t remember it?

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
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.


Your breath has a shape
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 Fox

My hands are learning you.
All my life they have been open
like questions, asking,
“Who will fit here, will she be this way,
or this way?”
They extend and caress an invisible presence.
Then you slid between them;
at first they were surprised.
“This is not what we expected”, they said,
“we held ourselves here, where there was nothing,
and we learned to stroke the silky smoothness of nothing,
and became stubborn waiting for nothing.”
But you pulled my hands into yourself,
and the questions were made to retreat,
beyond the orbit of my shoulders, away,
gone. My hands are learning you.
They are still surprised
by you.
They are no longer cold.