the breach

The black whale
That shot from the sea
And thundered back down
Was master of all his universes:

The liquid world could not contain him;

The air rushed to greet him, filling his lungs with new life,
Hurried to sustain his brief flight;

The solid world -- the world of our flesh and feeling --

Utterly transformed by his might.

All I can ask is to live one moment like him;

To briefly launch into that element just beyond my reach;

That benign and yet ominous Other that both inspires and eludes me;

So that my moment of mastery might descend with me again, into the iridescent deep

Where memory and meaning both reside.

-- Mr. Gobley


Old Man on Campus

He moves among the young
Pulled by air currents
Pushed by gestures:
He has the presence
Of cigar smoke
And something of its odor.

He lingers amidst the library stacks
Like Bellow's ghost,
Looking for pages to live in.

He interrogates academic journals,
Demanding that they divulge
What only he can decipher;
Kidnaps orphaned lattes
From the basement coffee shop,
Devours the Science Times
That beckons
Stained and matted
From the counter.

His briefcase, never open,
Bears the same battered manuscript
Over which he labored,
Through which he breathed,
During the years of his
Academic apprenticeship.

When i come close to pitying him,
i look close until i see
The smile of utter solitude
Crease his face:

The bliss of solipsism
Is his;
He is an anchorite
Amidst the young --
A minor god,
Hurling bolts of erudition
Into a sea of ink.

--Mr. Gobley


Early dusk

This is a miracle, too:

How nightfall,
In its heaviness,
Falls as lightly,
As freely,

As day dawns.

How watching reveals nothing
Until it reveals
That all is hidden.

How darkness, through the window,
Reflects oneself back to oneself,
And how daylight at last
Causes the self to vanish.

No light shines on my soul
But that it slowly dims,
No darkness descends upon me
But that its arc swings gently back
Toward redemption.

I breathe, I dream, I slowly die;
And all for this -- and only this -- am I.

--Mr. Gobley


In Praise of a Woman, Running

No form ever graced the Universe,
No figure ever spoke to the angels
Until yours sped past.

Your feet touched the ground as a sort of compromise;
You moved as if time and gravity were mere concepts,
And bones and ligaments fashioned
Like bow and arrow.

i cannot forget the ease,
Cannot approximate the joy,
Will not understand
The lightness of being

Expressed in your stride,
Until I have died.

--Mr. Gobley


Meditation on a Sunset from Behind a Window

Without biting bugs
And the territorial shrieks of gulls,
This is little more than a flat-screen TV.

And yet:

There is a cricket secreted in the ceiling tiles,
Singing to a newly determined storm;
And there is the semaphore of the rain
On the old roof

To remind me
That i am not alone here,
Not all alone.

i live on an island,
weave dreams on a prairie,
build boxes in the suburbs,

And watch water and sky
rise and fall

Through the great window
of memory.

--Mr. Gobley


Prayer for a Sunday Evening

My bones ache from the pleasure
Of wasting time.

And from working in the garden,
And walking into town.

From the sledding hill,
i saw a highway,
A forest,
And a world in no hurry.

On the way home,
i saw two children selling lemonade,
A dog trotting alongside her mistress,
And a father and daughter racing their bikes,
Laughing into the wind..

It was a world without ambition
And without enmity --
A small, fragile universe,
Shielded from itself
By a brief, benevolent window
Of the timeless.

i thank you,
Creator of Time,
For briefly, sweetly,
Making time

--Mr. Gobley


Prayer for a Child Engaged in Sport

You cannot fail.

You live in a
Distilled elixir,
A concoction of hope
And riotous dreams
That causes us
To rise out of our seats
And shout.

O Great Life,
That it should let us drink
Such wonders
As this modest moment!

All your guides,
i first and foremost,
pray that in falling you rise
and in defeat you

And that what wounds you suffer
Will scab over like glaciers
And move slowly
To the center of your being,

Where all defeat becomes song
And all sport
Conveys a hint of
The World to Come.

--Mr. Gobley


Prayer for When You Do Not Feel Ready

Dear Mover of Stillness:

The rush of time
Makes moments like leaves --

Unfurling slowly, they are suddenly everywhere,
Then, even more suddenly,

i fall helplessly behind:
Time has no particles,
Only waves;
No moments,
Only a stream.

Make me like the rock in the stream --
Let me bend the tide to my ceaseless will,
Until i am no more.

Or, perhaps,
Make me like the stream --

And yet, for all this,
i know
That You have made me
Both stream and rock,

And in time i will embrace
The flow of Presence
Over the stillness at my center.

Let that time be

-- Mr. Gobley


What the Garden Said

Thank you for scratching my back,
Tending to my wounds,
Cleansing my pores,
Nourishing my being.

All that remains for you to do
Is to recognize that i smile at you
Each day.

i wait for you to see me --
Essence of me,
Presence of me,
Beingness of me
That reaches toward you
With the whorled and trifoliate,
Tunnels toward you with
The fibrous and adventitious

(All i ask:
Look beyond the rim
Of your morning cup
And see me!),

Keeps becoming
And becoming
And waiting for you to
Gasp in recognition:

i live not next to you
But within you.
We grow
Each other.

The lobilia
And the columbine
Merely add flourishes
To what i constantly proclaim:

i am you.
Smile and reside within me,
And together we will
Reach upwards.

--Mr. Gobley


What Thin Is

Thin is skin.
Skin is thin, thinking ink.

In this, i sink:

i sin, kiss, shit,
hit things;

i sit.

This is it:
It is,
It isn't.

i stink,
i think, sinking.

It is knit
in skin.

It's high;
it's thin;

it thinks;
it sings.

It is i.

--Mr. Gobley


A meditation on lethargy

My soul has been baked
into a pudding.

i eat, standing over the kitchen sink,
looking out at the back yard,
and wish to remain there all day,
watching rabbit denude the garden
and blossoms sing of their own passing.

At times like this, i wish only to move
as the current of life will move me.

i have no designs
on reaching or grasping:

merely breathing,
and being,
are achievement enough.

Perhaps this isn't lethargy after all:
it may just be the call
of the corpuscles

The wild cry of the nucleotides

The singing of cells
Through the arches
Of tendon,

Morse code
Tapped onto
The wall of my slumbering soul:

Live, live, live . . .

-- Mr. Gobley


Getting Un-Lonely

This time, i mean it:
i will not rely on the mountains
To soothe my soul
Or on music
To provide a soundtrack
For my life,
Or on you
To make me feel worthy.

Suddenly, i find the mountains
to be piles of rocks and weeds,
the music to be merely the earnest
vibrations of the strings and the hopes
and the thirsty egos of the players.

And you:

You have come and gone.
What have you left me with?
Mere mountains;
Mere music.

A thirsty ego;
Nothing to quench the thirst.

Great heaps of nothing;
Vast mirages of beauty
That vanish as soon as
They appear.

If i promise to come to you,
You do not answer.
If i sing to you,
You do not smile.

All i have of you
Is the mountain
And the instrument.

i must climb,
i must play and sing.

And it is only then --
Straining my muscles,
Vibrating the strings --
That you appear to me,
And Here --

Being with me.

i am rendered

--Mr. Gobley


The Blessing of a Beach House

We perched, like ants, on a crust of earth,
On a mound of your making.
We asked, meekly --
"Can we stay for a moment?"

You were kind.

Thousands of turns of the globe,
The gyrations and wobbles of the planet,
Have been made plain to us;
Creatures, and Creation,
Have become our friends.

The plainest messages of time and tide
Have been laid at our feet.
We have grown up in the sun,

Found our way through the bays and inlets
Toward something greater
Than any city street:

Everything is busy being and becoming,
And we, who are so often too busy to notice,
Come here to just be, and to become.

We are pelicans and plovers,
And dolphins and egrets;
We are Germans and locals.

We find that Nature is omnivorous,
And we are omnipresent.
When we are here, even if alone,
We are never lonely.

--Mr. Gobley


Prayer of Gratitude for a Mixed Blessing

Dear Maker of Meaning:

Thank you for knowing me so well.
Your gift to me comes with good counsel.

i could not have swallowed my pride
but for this mixed blessing.

It reminds me that i am
loved by you,
neither more nor less
than every snowflake that falls,

And that my brief descent
is but a dance that celebrates
its own frailty
and makes its own brief imprint
on the pavement of the Eternal.

i will meditate on You.

i will see the humility of the mixed blessing
as the greatest of Your many gifts to me,
and i will remember to thank you no less
for what you have taken from me
than for all you have bestowed.

--Mr. Gobley


i accept the terms of service

When i have to click on that little box,
When choosing, or buying,
Or downloading,
Signifying that
"i accept the terms of service,"

i often think:

"How i long, just once, to click that box --
If only in my mind --

When it really means something."

So i will say it now,
For all to read,
For the All to know:

i accept the terms of service.

And now i will serve.

--Mr. Gobley


The Return of My Miniature Zen Garden

Today, it was on my desk again:

The small, square Zen garden,
Three rakes and a brush,
Sugar-white sand laced
With miniature tumbleweeds of
Dust and lint;

The garden had lived for months
In a colleague's cubicle:
While i was gone,
The garden was neglected.

The sand furrowed its brows;
The smooth stones sulked in their
Nests of sand and and gathering dust.

It is home again,
And again, my desk is a desert.
And now i will rake the garden
And pluck the lint from its new rows,
And then

The scratching of the miniature rake
Against bottom of the earthenware tray
Will drown out the silicon hum of the
Hard drive

Will obscure the blinking of the
Message light

Will remand the petty interruptions
Back to their cubed spaces:

Now, i will rake;
Now, i will be folded
Into a small, square universe
Of order and

--Mr. Gobley


What the snowplows leave behind

What the snowplows leave behind
Is gray and leaden.

Pure when peeled, the snow is sullied
By the passage of time and vehicles;
It becomes a sulking armature
Over lampposts and hydrants,
A cream-pie in the face
Of the world.

Then it hardens;
Then it is gone.

The plowed snow
Reminds me of my own
Fevered delusions
And personal melodramas:
Billions of little deceptions,
Grains of fiction,

Become a wall,
Become a shell,
Become water,
Become, in the end,


Just now they are jagged and gray,
But in time, they will flow downstream;

Perhaps someone will drink them
And be nourished.

In the gray of this season,
They seem almost to boast.

Soon enough,
The plow and the salt-spreader
Will cover them over with another layer;

Soon after that, perhaps,
i will remember them fondly
For what they really were:

Billions of little stories,
Waiting patiently to be told.

--Mr. Gobley


Meditation on my Blackberry

You are the fruit
Of a strange and lifeless tree:
My little rectangular heart,
Rear-view mirror of my conscience,
Insomniac engine of my endless days.

You emerge from a seed of wisdom --
The knowledge that we are all connected --
But you are a mutation:
You do not connect us
So much as you ensnare us.
We are alone,
Tied by your tentacles
Into an info-world
Made hollow and blinking and blue.

Priorities without meaning,
Messages without
These are the gifts you bear.

We bow low to your screen,
Waste our thumbs in obeisance to you,
Call out for connection
But are never fully joined
To those who beckon.

Even so, i thank you:
You always do your best,
You do not complain;
You exist to serve.

You are humility,
Clipped to my waist,
You are community
In a cube.

Like you, i will do my best,
Not complain,
Exist to serve;

And there,
We shall part ways.

--Mr. Gobley


Prayer for Yourself

May you remember that each breath you take is the first in a long chain of breaths, stretching down to all those who will be touched by you, loved by you; by those who descend from you, and by those who honor your memory.

May you remember that each breath you take is the last in a long chain of breaths, drawn from ancestors, all the way back to The Very First.

May you honor all these, with each breath.

May you be thirsty.

May you remove a splinter from your thumb.

And peel a grape.

And go an entire day without hearing an engine or an electrical appliance.

May you remember a grievous wrong done to you, and think of something very funny you could have done in response.

May you remember your calling.

May you fall out of bed.

May you make your own ice cream.

And eat it.

And may you hear crickets, and distant thunder, on an evening in August, when you are not in a hurry and the dishes have already been done.

--Mr. Gobley


A 10-gallon fish tank, in the dark

suspended in the invisible,
buoyed in a liquid
that always seeks the most direct route
to the lowest place,

they breathe

kept in a cube,
they sense large creatures,
shards of light,
feel the thud
of our footfall

each morning,
the heavens open,
the light returns with a burst:


for now,
they have made their peace
with each other

for now, it is dark,
and they sense both
relief and terror,
and from their fellow travelers,
and competition

soon it will be light again;
soon, the heavens will erupt
with light, and a shower
of nourishment;

for now, the filter breathes,
and they with it;

and all is quiet,
and still,
and fleeting,
and strange;

all is visible,
but nothing is within reach . . .

--Mr. Gobley