Knee Play: Zen Garden


Every time I look over to the sliver of light between the curtain panels my skull tries to breach through the sockets of my eyes.  Getting out of bed is working a huge puppet with slack wet ropes.  Good Lord I’m crazy.


Here’s a secret: cinnamon in the meat.  Quarter of a teaspoon for two pounds of beef or pork shoulder cubes and it kind of hides under the cumin, spreads over the roast like satin.  And then “Cinnamon Girl” comes through the speakers, and the aggressive dog bolts from the easy throw rug of my morning mind and barks its foamed mouth off at a memory of some guy in high school telling people that the guitar solo is only one note.  The accented strumming bringing out the harmonics in the overdrive– I feel bad for him, sitting in his bedroom with his Nelson hair and his pretty-boy Ibanez, strumming one string and wondering why it doesn’t sound the same.  You gotta put some cinnamon in that thing, man.

That something said in 1990 still bothers me like that is pure diagnosis for something I don’t want cured.  I am at peace, I am calm, but I value that yapping dog in my head.  It’s barking a warning, and alert.  It really likes you and means well but listen up bark bark bark bark bark–


It’s a couple of years later, 1992.  I’m at the Ryan’s Cafeteria on 11th and Admiral in Tulsa, OK, with a writer.

“Don’t get discouraged when you write something crappy.  Don’t get discouraged  when you don’t feel like writing.  Just keep going.  Was that you in that story, the guy with the euphonium?”

“No.”  I worked some peas out from under a sausage link.  “Why?”

“‘Cause he seemed like a real drag.”


I’m not sure how I missed hearing Zen Garden, because I feel like this all of the time, like I’m just barely making a rhythm out of a hundred feedback thoughts.  The Buddhist and Taoist ideas that I harbor take practice, take discipline, and the purpose is partly to end the suffering of my noisy mind.

The trick is that I value noise.  The noise in my mind tends to make me implode, but listening to “Indecision Time” is so familiar to me.  My best writing comes from an edited version of thoughts that buzz in my head like this song does in my earphones.  I value peace but it’s boring sometimes…


I’m cooking chicken outside as a storm front moves in.  Hank Williams is yelping and yodeling from the front room and I try to relax my mind, to count breaths, and I start to focus on a single fly lighting on the window screen.  Each breath brings another fly in the thick storm air, then another.  I no longer have to count the breaths but there have been a hundred, hundreds, and I can just make out a voice behind me, saying “Kent” in a low, calm chant, and as I let myself out of the meditation to make sure the chicken isn’t burning I realize that he’s trying to tell me about the flies.  I’m covered in them, head to my calves.  I still haven’t moved.


I’ve been working on a novel, and to keep myself honest I’ve written my focus on a piece of paper: “Passion is the bridge between mindfullness and abandonment, madness is the bridge alone.”  The image I have really is a novel, in the way that some expressions are paintings, some are dances, some are poems.  Poems in particular are what I’ve been writing all my life, what I’ve studied, how I speak with words when I can get away with it, and trying to keep the pace of a novel is taxing to me.  It is not pithy; it is not a concentration or a conservative use of words.  I want to finish it, and I will.  But taking time off from The Pirate George Letters to flesh out some chapters have been beautifully difficult.  This is my Romper Room and my Dear Diary.  My novel is partly about finding love between the balance of being perfectly still and being completely moved.  Be it for good or ill, this blog is movement for me.  Good to be back.  God I’m crazy.  Good to be back

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