From the orange clouds above St. Petersburg
only you saw the giant chimera, 
deemed it sacred, rubbed the crystal
dangling in the peach hollow of your
neck between painted thumb and
fingers, like caressing the skull of a tiny bird.

For then, in our travels, you were bestowed with gifts, 
the unspoken prayer was your velvet throne.
Was it true ruby-throated hummingbirds sang
to you in hieroglyphics of flight, could brothels
or hotel suites whisper stories in secret languages 
only you understood, as you glided sleek as 
a panther in gypsy blouses and jangling bracelets.

Talismanic wisdom intoxicated our guests, 
especially the men, hypnotized in elysian stupor 
as you undulated in cafes and fetes from Kirsanov
to Samara. Do you remember when I gave away all
our signed books to the gutter punks near the Caspian,
where you were poised as a ballerina as you nibbled
salty pinches of beluga caviar, plump as pearls 
glistening with silver. Your blonde hair splayed across
your eyes as you murmured like a hushed
orgasm behind the altar of a cathedral.

How many times have I stared at clouds, all the 
desperate cumulus, nimbostratus and cirrus of every visional moment,
waiting for the stray lightning of enlightenment:, 
arcane knowledge deluging into the parched Kalahari of
my mind. I summoned it hungrily, watching tarnished
clouds swim like ghost shrimp past the winter moon;
I beseeched God and all gods and avatars and wizards
to barter me the genius to keep her close, to my side.

I can stop now. Telling my story. You know the rest. Of 
this drinking game. The glass, the bottom of the glass is
shining like a soft roe egg, from the mightiest sturgeon in
the Black Sea. I am without, her magic, she always 
was the chimera, there was no cloud, or sudden light.
I am tired and need a drink.


Craig Shaffer
Jan. 2-3 2015



Before cultural deprivation exiles me to
a monastery of pout or petulance,
I must gird myself
for the spartan journey.

Fill the IPod with Shakira,
Fergie and Beiber downloads.
Burn “Ghostrider” to DVD.
Whisper serenity prayers for
Britney, and for Lindsey.
Clad myself in taupe capris and the
Lance Armstrong livestrong wristband.
nail Adam Lambert embroideries to my barn,
march for social justice in El Paso.

Am I not girded?
Am I not ready for embrace?
The mullet is secretly
preserved in a shoebox.
The gold navel chain in the attic.


After the apocalypse, excess
will no longer trouble the survivors.
They will wander blasted, poisoned lands
scavenging bereft for morsels of bird or bug.

Since the end of the world isn’t here just yet,
we have Kristie Alley and Chris Christie
to contend with. We are a proud race.
From buffet to brunch, fat Americans
gorge. See them haul about in handicap carts
down the cluttered aisles of Walmart.
See them waddle into IHOP and Golden Corral.

But it’s a New Year, hallelujah,
time for rebirth and transformation!
No more pecan pie and cheesecake. Hell no.
Hostesses and caterers, tether that glutton.
Track his sly maneuvers at the soiree;
Watch those dollops glops gulps and gobbles.
Punchbowl sticky, his velveteen tux;
lime sorbet feathers his trim goatee.

New dawn. Breaking wind, I wobble to the scales,
humble penitent to an angry idol.
16,000 children will die of hunger today.
Five million children a year.
One billion hungry people.
What of the fruited plains,
wheatfields and orchards,
biofuel landscapes enchanted with soy?

Hollow-eyed Darfur waif with a M4 wanders unplowed fields.
Stolen relief supplies rotting in warlord caches.
Drought or flood, disease or war starves the multitude.
They say inequality is causal, they say the
distribution channels are broken. They say the
banks and corporations trample the powerless.

The wind in the blood is louder now;
Protestors dressed as frankenvegetables
shouting “Hey hey ho ho leave our DNA alone!”
Monsanto cannot save us. Permaculture
not nanotechnology will deliver us.

With smug devotion I jawbone
lentils and sprouts with the enlightened
at The Fresh Market, carefully selecting
bio-diverse, astoundingly overpriced
harvests of the organic realm.
The halo effect is immense, radiant.
I am saving the planet. I reuse the towels in
my indigenous hotel room. I am saving the planet.
This artisan goat cheese free-range cheeseburger
costs a week’s pay in Haitian sugar cane fields.
I’ve smashed my mellow incandescents, how
I will mourn their warm golden light, but, but
I am saving the planet.

You are the change.
Excelsior! Think of the possibilities!
I resolve to make my aura shine twice-bright.
I pledge to confront urban decay without
compassion fatigue nor prejudice.

I promise to surrender my weapons–
beloved gamma switchblade, and, my glistening selenium arrows.
I vow to pay my fair
share thus imperiously surrendering
everything I own to the cause.

If I do these things, then gifts of levitation, prophecy,
and invites to celebrity fundraisers will be mine.
Will I stop polar icecaps from melting
and end war as we know it? Will I fix Palestine
and make peace with the mullahs?
My reverent legacy. Yes.

Now. The first step for these things
to manifest in good time is to pretend,
with a chimera of Cartesian meditation, that
this pecan pie does not exist, nor does
beckoning triple chocolate cheesecake. Just pretend. That.
I will go hungry today. I will go naked and wear no fur.
To live small and die holy,
a leave-no-trace footprint of dust.
I am saving the planet.

~ Craig Shaffer


I know where quiet comes from.

It floats beneath the stilled crocus;
an explorer’s corpse in Arctic drifts;
swampland graveyard in October mist.

Quiet is buried contraband
in clenched cold bony fingers.
Quiet the jungle before the ambush.

I know where wind comes from

Underbelly turbulence,
cooled ions tryst in heat.
Mercurial witchy twisting air
exploding lungs gargle for breath.

I know where anger comes from

Rocks split under force of scorn,
wet hot lavas, magma and ore.
furnaces of betrayal, rivers of semen,
stolen glances, forbidden touches,
white hot rings scorching everyone.

+ + + + + + + +

The function of parameters is
to fence the pasture:
of law, to maintain solid lines.
Someone to lime the dead,
seduce the masses, capture the flag.

I’ve watched the bull’s horn go in,
and rivals brawl until they drop.
Lovers run and they run,
red flags all over the field.

Butterfly Garden

Cocoon twirls on a twig
like a bobbin spinning up thread.
building its own prison.

What if it wants out.
What if it doesn’t want to be like a
mummy in a musky tomb,
shrouded falcon, fetus,
bug in a web.

It’s the restless nature
of things held within.
Child locked in a closet,
clasped pearl, malignant cyst,
volcano trembling beneath the park.
Trapped beaver chews
bone like candy cane.

Star explodes, atom splits.
Splinter in finger, yolk in egg,
parapalegic in a silver chair,
the sick or old desperate for heaven.

Cocoon, cocoon, straightjacketed in silk
thumb of god, wrapped in wings,
waiting to ascend.

Wild Seed

Randy’s getting the hell out of town:
Silver ’73 Cadillac fishtails
a dirt and gravel cyclone
like a meteor chasing
its own steaming tail,
sirens swarming banshees.

Shades wrapped tight.
Arms coiled like pythons.
Tattoo of flame-eyed Jesus
on a chopper riding his bicep.

Randy’s a livewire low-rider,
rompin’ stompin’ ball of hail.
He’s got Natassia glued tight
600 horsepower and high-test gas
tires shrieking like castrated pigs.

He grew up in a shotgun-spackled
trailer with old pappy and cousin Susie,
crib-reared to fight and drive.
Natassia, all halter tops
hot pants, cat eyes and mascara.
Randy says “she got legs
up to here, hair down to there,
she got dynamo hum
in her underwear.”

So they’re burning up blacktop at 110
hot-rod caddy and a fifth of gin,
hard rock wide open on the radio.

Randy’s sideburns, sharp as hatchets,
Natassia’s tongue, worming his ear
like an eel exploring a conch.

fire island

Down on the beach
an orange umbrella is torn.
A hand rests on the hot sand.

Nearby a scorpion waits,
hook tail quivering.
Pale poison glints like
syrup on a pin.

Shivering in the saw grass
your eyes are captivated
waiting for the sting.

~ Craig Shaffer


In the olden days:
Summon the hooded ones to surround the jewel,

lift their veils to scarlet-shrouded moon,
murders of crows jag the light,
anise and sage misting darkness.

Or, the post-modern approach.
Rent-A-Demo. Parade and party.
Topple that skyscraper,
tear the motherfucker down.
Occupy Galaxy. We deserve to
overcome overwhelm oversee
for our foes are
dumb and evil, ugly too.

Grouping of groups, nomenclature
of numbers, from clan to klatch:
Sunday bells clang for the crown,
Buicks and Lexi arrive for the show.

In swamplands rouse congregations of alligators,
tending squirming pods of their scaly young.
Rabbles of caterpillars defoliate grand catalpas,
coalition of cheetah savage baby
springbok at dawn, bastards they are.

Trashcans hurled through
Starbucks windows: Such potent blows to the Empire!
Smug rebels tweet and text Iphones up the street,
camo and jackboots, kerchiefs and armbands.

Just another clutter, clowder or litter,
rout, swarm or cast.
Mind-hive. Mobpsyche. Groupmind.
Agitprop. Media herd.

There are no issues.
There are personalities.
There are no issues.

Same boss, useful tools;
masses, mobs, convocations, armies.
Consortiums. Committees. Corporations.

Skulk of foxes hunting hordes of gerbils.
Tribe of goat, warren of hare,
aerie of hawk, array of hedgehog.

Wiccan covens skydance enthralled.
Teamsters rough up loathsome pickets.
Rabid fans siege sexy celebrities.
Protestors storm conventions.
Fervent musters, tribal

kingdoms, sects, colonies or cloisters.

To the alien legions,
please visit our cackle of hyenas,
our stinging smacks of jellyfish,
our annoying charm of hummingbirds.
Shall the earth be cleansed
of such familial fratricide.

Lost Swimmer

Water silvers stinging flesh
blistered from vicious sun.
Giant ocean, whistling
mountains, emerald troughs.
Innocent cumulus, brilliant azure,
beautiful, terrible day.

                ~ Craig Shaffer   09.08.2012


It was the year he became
the blind man
whose fingers
were chopped
bumbling a sawmill
while dreaming a shrine.

Watch how he pitches about in
dust and briars, desperately looking for
each severed piece.

No one has told him
certain things can’t be reattached.

Listen as he holds his breath mute.
Men built tough; boy not cry.

With the fetid stump
he brushes damp earth
around his dad’s fresh tombstone,
shadowy reflections in granite.

The yellow and purple variegated pansies,
that survive even down to 10 degrees

The indentation of the wedding ring
still faintly visible on one of those missing fingers
were he able to find it and note the
gentle slope and alluvial valley where it wore thin.

Victimhood’s devout religion
the wronged find their shriek,
the forgiving hand in the
tiger cage shredded.


What was said was said.
No taking it back.
Once the sword went in.
Time machine deactivated.

Now we’ve got a mess.
On our hands.
Across our lands.
Jerk out arrows;
suture wet wounds.
Before it’s too late.

Before it’s too late.
How a trillion mistakes
of timing or execution summon
grim justices of contrition.



When the brackish water slugged away,
multitudes scuttled from their cairns
toothpicking across the mud.

They hold the heavy claw with a
hellboy bravado. They hold it like
a mauling mace or smashing hammer.
In the glistening mud flats of the
swamp marshes, they teem by the
millions, their loves, their triumphs
in crustaceanal urges of being
born to the infinite chartreuse of
high grasses, the intermidable
return of the tide. 



Signs 2

Scattering of blackbirds at night in a hemlock.
Locust bark strewn for 30 yards of firewood taj.

Incense and candlelight, steam heat and electric blankets.
Radio Paradise. Nail, weedeaters, trimmers. Thatches of orchard grass.

Blooming redbud I used to climb. Grave of Jill, the final turkey setter.
Streaming prayer transmission on infinite bandwidth.

Green-gold glare of sudden possum eyes caught in bronze argon lights.
Daffodils crushed by truck tires pulling another load.

Faith at work, treetops waving in March breezes.
Snugged under four blankets as frost jewels forsythia.

Fried egg and orange cheese and mayo on wheat rounds.
Wrists plunged in hot soap dishwater with a copper scour pad.

Mountains so near in sumi painting mist.
Bluejay and cardinal and homing pigeon on the flagpole.

Soldiers with night vision in the wildlands north of Kabul.
My father curled up like a drowsy fetus in Special Care.

                                                                     ~ Craig Shaffer  03.27/2011


Three crows twisting in a cawing gyre beyond the skeleton locusts.
White cat crouching in the emerald bamboo thatch.
Candle-tip stars floating on tar black through a cloudy fissure.
Four deer sprinting across frosty broomstraw on a wind-strewn dusk.
Downhill to Big Otter Creek on 221 a “Jesus First” sign is nailed to a fencepost.
Five four-leaf clovers pressed into a new life scrapbook.

A whoosh of witchwinded oak leaves spinning in a mushy clatter.
Rain spattering a black umbrella on a midnight meadow stroll.
Swarm of white pear blossoms roller coasting the rising gusts.
A flock of two dozen bluebirds scattering from cemetery trees.
Numeric phenomena, 11s and 22s and 7s synching by the score.
Yellow feather from a childhood Indian bonnet on the heart pine floor.

Snow damp red mud across the tractor gate to the field behind the tracks.
A mallard irridescent on chartreuse grass drenched in early morning sun.
Prayers echo across the Universe where infinite distance is everywhere.
Candlelight flecks the ceramic angel on the dark-varnished mantlepiece.
Inner child sheds bandages and braces, crutches and scars to heal fast.
Kisses in the moonlight in the deep woods, forest spirits all watching.

                                   Craig Shaffer, March 26, 2011


Resistance Is Futile

To The Borg: I am pleased you have decided in unison not to destroy the Earth today.

Dear Saul: I meant to send you a personal note about how much I loved your novel “Hertzog” but now you’re dead.

Well Sylvia, you did it you did again. What kid wants to grow up reading “Soon, soon the flesh/The grave cave ate will be/
At home on me” from his Mom. RIP Nicholas, March 23. So much for “You are the one/ Solid the spaces lean on, envious./ You are the baby in the barn.” Life is more than a gas.

Hey Jake: I was stunned you didn’t use my trenchant question at the presidential press conference last night but that’s cool.

Dear Ms. Magnuson: I completely understand why your blood boils when you hear Phil Spector’s defense team try to convince ANYONE that Lana Clarkson committed suicide with his gun at his mansion.

Greetings to the Margoli: you’re annual accounting of our firm has been pristine, professional, and precise.

Hi Peta: You never mentioned my beautiful little poem I sent. I must now reconsider ordering the La Femme Nikita box set.

Здравствуйте (zdraststvooy tyeh) Ukrainians! we still await your Ajax and Ruby on Rails programming on our new blog site.

Dear Jennifer: when you were playing Amarice in Xena the Warrior Princess in the Endgame episode, did you feel an intimate sense of responsibility to protect Gabrielle when you shouted “What are you waiting for? Run! I’ll hold her off!”

Hey Edward: I just wanted to tell you that Tyler Durden in “Fight Club” inspired me to hit myself even harder. I am so ready to serve the militant needs of Operation Chaos.

Oh Helen, I do wish I had gone to the Eckankar classes with you and friends back in 1976 when I lived in your basement so I could have enjoyed out-of-body galactic experiences.

Hallo Shiv: it’s really cool you still have your Facebook site up with thousands of friends even though you were run over by a car in Paris in 1993. How’s the phantom life, dude?

Dear Lu Ann: you once told me you wished we had slept together that awkward night in August 1973. I am sorry I split the milk on the shag carpet after the exquisite clam spaghetti dinner and candlelight.

Hello Suzanne: You’re so impressed you’re going to put my poems to music and make a huge hit like “Luka” aren’t you?

Attn: Sarah: We at Homeland Security have detected chatter that Putin is flying around your backyard like a freakin’ sparrow.

Hi Joan: My fiction class wants to know why-in-the-hell you changed your novel title from California Blue to The White Album.

Yo Charlie: you’re 74 you old fuck and you’re still in prison har har har. See you’ve still got that scar. Hope you rot, bro.

Farewell Judson–it was a great jingly jangly time at Downhill Farm back in the day. I still remember riding horses and swimming naked in the cold creek with the abandoned tipi poles nearby. Sorry the commune split up and you had to move to Ohio with the wind chimes and your triad of Marty and Sandy. I heard your writing was flowing before you died in 1991.

Calling Timothy: from the received wisdom of friends we hear you still inhabit the ether. That is, even though your ashes cooked upon reentry from orbit along with a quarter-ounce of Gene Roddenberry. Professor, I tried your product and I liked it very much and sometimes not.  I hope your ectoplasmic essence recalls me giving you the iridescent mirror disk at Chapel Hill as well as our phone interview when you talked 145 words a minute from California.

Hi Jerry, remember me? We spoke Christmas Day 1984. You were with your folks in New York. You hadn’t met Jennifer, Lisa, Matthew or Courtney yet. My father made me get off the phone. It was long-distance and it was snowing.

Dear Marcia: Every time I see a willow dancing in the wind, I think of you, resting there beside the duck pond. I imagine that you are the hand pushing the breeze, and that you are part of every vibrating atom.

Old Black Joe: always wanted to meet you and share a vanilla moon pie and RC cola and watch you jig and wiggle.

Dearest Mom: I remember the dream when you were across the river with your paints and easel with the rainbow behind you.

To The Borg: I am still pleased you have decided in unison not to destroy the Earth today.

~ Craig Shaffer

The Road In The Woods

The Road In The Woods

At a mountaintop crossroads, on a whim of
wild curiosity, a timber road seduces you.
Something beckons you to go ahead, leave the
well-traveled route to wander the unmapped
miles of laurel, tulip poplar, black oak, and red maple.

It’s a hook in the lobes, tangle in the spine, this
rugged confluence of mud, rock, and leaves
switchbacking a wilderness ridge.

February winds surge from the valleys, stirring
leaves like a witch’s stew. It shakes the hysterical
armies of bare trees and rattling branches,
clattering like skeletons riding a merry-go-round,
the wind a ghostly calliope wavering from shriek to
hoarse, like an antique music box choked on rust.

Later the sun punches out beyond
starships tucked behind tarnished clouds
and you’re alone finally, finally alone,except for
possums, skunks or crows, the woods
teeming with squirrels, tails switching
like duster plumes. A finger of smoke from a distant
farmhouse, fortresses of granite boulders big as elephants

There’s been others here: teenagers with
beer, tissues and condoms; woods-wandering
boys with pocketknives, compasses and sandwiches;
hunters in tree bark camo waiting to slay another deer.
The lovers who came and went, hikers with only a
bone to chew, and the wind, always the wind,
and a mysterious road–alluring, intriguing, magnetic,
No one around for miles, just you, just you and
your secrets, finding a way, moving forward.

~ Craig Shaffer |  February 13, 2011


Believe me. If you massage
the fifth chakra long enough,
its grateful vibrations will
wake up dormant cells.

Then you’re well
on the way
to growing a brand-new Central Nervous System.

Hurrah. Huzzah!

It’s like Jack-In-The-Genestock.
The seed of an idea
that grows and grows becomes
synaptic kudzu. It slowly overtakes
your legacy CNS—gnarly, twisted
and fried as might it be.

Let us visit the
Museum of Developmental Trauma
to examine who to blame for this mess:

  • Fucked up parents
  • Evil babysitters
  • Potty training issues
  • Daycare-From-Hell
  • Wetting your pants in first grade
  • Getting bullied in kick ball
  • The favorite pumpkin got busted

 Still, not enough to merit counseling,
group therapy, or Lexapro.
Your dysfunctional mechanism has to be worser or
worsest to qualify for galactic empathy.
How to validate a legitimate
cRy fOR hElP??????

Time to thicken the pudding, caramelize the plot:

  • A mouth full of braces
  • Getting laid or not getting laid
  • Small tits, big tits, no tits
  • Locker room shower shyness
  • Seeing grandma and grandpa naked
  • Channeling Janis Ian on prom night
  • Uncle Joe stares at your ass
  • 11 p.m. curfew your senior year
  • Dropping bad acid at a Michael Bolton concert
  • Mean girls, wicked boys, D in typing.

 Now then. To fertilize the metastasizing
alternate central nervous system, you’ve got
to set into motion a subset of traumatic
interpretations that is constantly reviewed on
the video screen of the mind.

That’s when the child within, little Chucky,
gets seriously bent, spindled and mutilated.
Peek under his arms, like lifting the wings
of a dessicated bird. There’s the eaten-out heart,
beating wildly in the skeleton cage.

The over-sized head is oddly lopsided and bruised.
The genitalia may appear normal but
not according to you, so curses on them.

The voices. The critics, their chorus, their choirs:

  • What’s wrong with you?
  • Can’t you do anything right?
  • We knew you couldn’t do it.
  • If people really knew what’s inside…
  • Everyone else is normal.
  • Why did he/she have to die?
  • Maybe Uncle Joe did more than stare.
  • I’m not right.
  • I’m really scared.

 That’s when you know it’s going to take
a long, long time. That’s when you realize:

  1. What you have is all you’ve got.
  2. You can reprogram some not all.
  3. Growing new neural pathways requires herculean effort.
  4. Nature and nurture win every game.
  5. You never outgrow your parents or childhood.
  6. Transformation is possible.
  7. Transcendence requires dying or discipline or drugs.
  8. There may or may not be life after life.
  9. There’s not enough time to get it all done.
  10. Maybe you coulda shoulda woulda .

 Don’t you fret!

Angels to the rescue.
Blue moon in black sky.
Coconut macaroon cookies.
Love on Chucky until he feels better.
Rainbows and unicorns.
Skittles and organic doughnuts for all.
Snowstorm in April.
A miracle when least expected.
A friend when you need it.

The Universe has plans for you.
The Universe does not have plans for you.
It’s okay to pray.
It’s okay to cry in your chicken noodle soup.
It’s gonna be alright sooner or later.

It always does what it does.

~ Craig Shaffer  02/09/2011






Orange Clouds Glow Like Japanese Lanterns

Orange clouds glow like Japanese lanterns
awaiting the mighty hologram.

Computer 3D models have wire framed
the famous rugged mountain of legends.

Scaffolding, architects and stone-sculpting
power tools are staged and ready.

Stars align in celestial acronyms to spell the name.
Birds of all species converge in formation,

Forest animals gather in sun-shafted clearings;
dolphins arc in unison under rainbows.

Scholars probe ancient scrolls and sacred texts
to unveil the prophesies.

Many are the faithful who bow in reverence
to such grandiose historical context as

garlands, mau maus, annunciations and hosannas
are lavished by legions of acolytes and scribes.

Saints abide, angels cheer,
Jesus has a 17th row seat.

                                     ~ Craig Shaffer

Gold Finching

August’s cozy slant of light. Goldenrods, milkweed fronds floating. Hiss of water sprinklers. Dozens of birds flitting. Pokeberry bushes with purple bunches of drying berries.

The basil has been plucked and made into pesto. Bright green leaves, so fragrant. It is growing back slowly after harvesting. Next year I will harvest it earlier before the pagoda-shaped buds develop flowers. Or I can prune the buds below the node to make the plant think it is still growing.

The days are flying. Like a butterfly caught in a time machine. Show-time every morning. Blink. Toothpaste-splattered mirror. Puffy face. Eyes clearer now. The sagging double bags are sallow darkness under my eyes is gone. I am better. Than I was.

Soft white clouds floating by. Soft white clouds floating by. The voice of the hypnotist, just barely above a whisper. Like an aphid crawling across a leaf. Mantras reverberating…slowing the heartbeat, controlling the breathing. In and out. Out and in. The lung of the jungle. The plexus of the ocean. The sky is breathing. See it exhale through the trees. Yes. Then once again.

~ Craig Shaffer    from a summer long ago.

Monk Fishing

Shall I go to a place
where monkfish debate
the tensile surface of vapors,
testy and bobbing,
undulations ebbing?

Oh were I a kung fu master
upon the bullet-time wire;
my handsome Hattori Hanzo sword cuts
the sunset like a cantaloupe,
through a hemisphere of brain.

I am not master.
I don’t respond to circadian rhythms,
dances of ovulation or
metabolic cycles.
The heart works and works.
The well remains wet.
Grateful for my wife’s blonde
hair raking my shoulder as
she turns in her sleep.

What then of prophets,
priests and pundits
who with mighty voices
proclaim the sky falls or
rises, he is good and she is evil.

Should I blast the crows
for razing the corn or let peace
settle in the valley?

Should I welcome yellow jackets
to burrow in my yard
with utter impunity?

Should I bless the possums rooting through garbage,
or the deer nibbling antique roses
at every gazebo or creche down the boulevard?

~ Craig Shaffer

End of Days


I remember black-fisted storm clouds
hammering the golden fields.
Trellises of lightning
jagged the horizon like an
Etch-A-Sketch of fire.

I remember the scorched white church,
steeple tempting the storm like
the brazen scepter of a defiant pharaoh.

In those days I felt
vibrations trembling underground.
In tense air charged atoms swirled
like tornadoes of fireflies.

Signs were everywhere. Frenzies
of butterflies, honeybees swarmed.
Calm ponds rippled with invisible wind.
Cicadas burred loud as chainsaws.
Orange penumbras haloed the moon.

There was no precise moment
when sirens wailed,
no tectonic punch that froze
control patterns on cable TV.

Was it when prairie fires choked the sun,
our hometown newspaper went south,
the hardware store shut its doors?

I watched witch winds kick up dust.
I heard cattle mourn their dying calves.
I smelt the stench of cordite and burning steel.

When it all became dark, and cold,
stiletto branches cut the inkblot sky,
big moon a dirty pearl.


        ~ Craig Shaffer

Exercise In Mindfulness

I’ve been trying almost constantly to focus, to live in the moment. To be aware, to “be here now.” It is an ongoing exercise, particularly because I’ve trained my mind to be a multi-tasking, channel-surfing, short-attention span distraction machine.

In the shower, looking at the water splash over my feet. Experiencing the sensations of warm water splash over my body, splatter on my scalp. Listening to all the wet sounds. The pressure of the soap bar on my arms and chest. The rough-soft texture of the blue towel. Fresh tartness of toothpaste, cutting through the bittersweet pall of coffee. Lining up all the librations on the counter. Pressure of rolling on sticky-dry deodorant. Sharp pungent mouthwash. Burst of aromatic cologne. Steamy bathroom, scrape of razor on one-day whiskers. Sting of Visine in wakening eyes.

Moving smoothly through my room, stuffy from four computer running all night. Gathering up the necessary items for the day, reviewing in real-time the day ahead. Sounds of my black canvas briefcase; zippers, strap, scraping of texture. Sunlight irradiating the living room. Sunlight through the bright green dogwood leaves. Pear pieces chewed up by squirrels on the sidewalk. The dark green basil coming back slowly after harvesting. The dried heads of zinnias and coneflowers in the garden.

Delicious bath of cool air from the air conditioner. Crows flying across the sky. Engine purring. New tires humming over 501. Pinkish-orange clouds as the sun rises. People in their cars, sipping coffee, talking on cellphones. Flashes of thoughts, dreams, regrets, determinations. Must stay away from constant Internet surfing. From eating prodigiously. To find balance and harmony amid the overwhelming sense of a life that went somewhere perhaps I did not intend and am struggling to accept. Trying to be aware that the moment, right now, is perhaps exactly, precisely where I am supposed to be in the destiny river.

The solid chunk of the car door. Weight of briefcase on the shoulder. Walking slowly, feeling the parking lot under my feet. A wasp flying by. Bumblebees sipping from the purple speedbush clustering in the parched mulch beside the building. Taking a breath and hearing the swoosh of the glass door upon entering the building. Phones, collages of voices, footsteps. The day begins, the journey continues. Another day in the life. Listening for guidance. Trying to smile and gently forgive myself. Trying to reroute the synapses and the habitual pain-shame-guilt pathways. Trying to lift the mental fog and wake up. To be grateful. To experience the moment. To capture the reflections of the puddle, the shadows in the stucco, the faces behind the windows, the people in the houses, and to celebrate the simple joy of being alive. Today. Just for today.

~ Craig Shaffer | Aug. 19 2008