A Roof in a Snowstorm

Today the new roof
Juts its serrated jaw
At the elements,
Which are not impressed.

A new roof revives the self-esteem
Of brick and mortar, rather like

A new hat bestows new grace
To an old gentleman.

Some day, the elements will have won,
But today, the roof seems to lean
Into the wind and welcome its worst.

From behind the frosted windows,
i thank the Maker of all Shelters,
Even as i bow
To that same Force,

Which bends Its might

To taking back,
In tiny increments
And fierce blows,
The very shelter It provided.

--Mr. Gobley


Having Given Thanks

Having given thanks,
i rise toward my obligations
unaware of their weight

send orisons
to the four corners of the compass
whence dwells the All

And save some small part
Of my shattered self
For the days that will be:

i must rise in all directions,
Even downward:
i will not rest
Until all have given thanks
For All . . .

--Mr. Gobley


The Gift of the Dying

The gift of the dying
Is their knowing.

The dying know it all
But only their eyes say so.

And what they say is this:

Go. Live. Sing.
Pray for me,
But don't spend all day on it.

Outside, the world
Is growing accustomed
To my absence,
And being ceaselessly amazed
At the arrivals,
Raw from their journey and,
Like you, shocked
At being torn away.

Turn your attention to me,
Ever so briefly,
Say the dying,

So that the fierce forward-leaning
Of life
Can shock you anew,

And build your resolve
To call out to the cosmos
With all the devoted desperation

Of your borrowed soul.

Say the dying with their fluttering eyes.
Go, but don't leave me.
Come back,
So i can see what coming back is like,
Once more,

And so that you may remember
That in coming back,
You are practiced
In the art that i learn even now:
The art
Of going

--Mr. Gobley


In Praise of Ritual

The young woman steps up
Into a forest of adults,
Their gnarled hands
As shields,
As signs,
As cudgels,
Their prayer shawls
Billowing like sails,
Conveying her along
On this raft of ritual.

None of the practice,
The memorization,
The chanting,
The slow disappearance of vowels,
Her first real look at the mottled
Parchment, so clearly
An animal's hide --

None of it prepared her for this moment,
But in this way it is like the rest of life
After the ritual:

You prepare, but are still rudderless,
You are expert and yet unschooled.
You know, and know not.

Her pulse pounding in her throat,
She begins, weakly at first.
Her eyes are dry.
The letters on the parchment blur
When she blinks.

And then, the transformation occurs:
The letters are singing:
She merely opens her throat
To let them pass through.

When she is done,
The great gnarled fists
Open and bring her
Into embrace.

None of it makes any sense --
And after all, why should it?

Paths and mountains do not
Make sense --
They merely lower
Themselves to you,
When you commit to them,

And begin to climb.

--Mr. Gobley


Two and a Half Donuts

We eat the concentric rings of our lives.
The crescent that cradles what's left
Of our hollow center
Slides down time's throat,
Taking our soul with it.

All that is held
Is held in the center:
Air, emptiness:

The first donut firmly establishes this lesson
In the mind of the initiate.
The slight crunch of the baked shell
Between your teeth,
The surrender of the dough
To your steaming palate,
Move you through the lesson,
But your lust overwhelms it.

The second donut,
Eaten more deliberately,
Chewed more thoughtfully,
Is the beginning of
An Awakening.

And the last half --
Which begins with the cradled emptiness
And ends with substance --
Is a crullered coda:

Never do once,
What can be done
(With deepening concentration
And a half


In Praise of Small Change

The obdurate, obstinate coin:

Hangnail of capital,
Orphan of the bank note,
Shard of shattered worth;

Erstwhile screwdriver,
Denizen of ashtrays,
Swimming in figure-stamped schools
Through childrens' desks:

How you exemplify all that is good!

In the dark, in the drawer,
In the jug behind the door,
Buried under strata of
Your brethren,
You remain
At attention,
Neither more
Nor less
Than you were
(Inflation does not
Diminish your constancy).

At night, the upside-down presidents
Confer with their neighbors,
The flag-bearing cavalry
Of a chivalrous state,

And determine to
Stay the Course.

And stay they do.

There is no better friend than these:
Both flat and round,
Historic and hum-drum,
They move through time
By standing still
As we hurry by,

Scrambling to be worth
Only a little less
Than we were worth
A moment ago.

--Mr. Gobley


When God Created Godself

When God created Godself,
She unfurled into a cosmos
Of Becoming
And made room out of
What had not been
For what would yet be.

"This," God said,
"Is where I will reside:
In the nexus where non-Being
Meets Being --
Where No-Thing
Meets Becoming."

And it is here --
In life's forward-leaning
Love of Being,
And in Mind's
Restless Minding,

That God speaks.
Here you will find
The smallest of all miracles
And the greatest of all forces --

The thumbnail's growth
And the glacier's grinding solace.

All that is and will be
Spirals from the womb
Of the first
Becoming --

Beyond our wildest dreams,
To Her,
The Self-Making
Of all Presence.

Turn back now.
Make a pact with
Untie the knots of
And Pride
That tether you
To merely having been.

Not to be
Born Again,
But to continue
Being born,

Is the tireless task
Through which

--Mr. Gobley


In Praise of Growing Old

How else would i come to understand
(Other than from my garden)
That decay nourishes life?

How better to learn
That humility
Is no mere virtue,
But a survival skill?

What better way to appreciate
The fleeting heroism of youth?

When else would i understand,
In my viscera,
The smooth, accelerating curves
That are the contours of time?

How else would i know
That there is no God,
Except the beingness,
The eagerness of forward-leaning
That, given half a chance,

Restlessly proclaims
The "is-ing"
That everywhere

How else would i know
The arc
Of an unending love?

How else
Would i learn
To say goodbye?

--Mr. Gobley


The Elegant, Intelligent Telephone

It knows me.
It says so.

It marshalls a parade of universes under my nose,
Customized to my vanities and idiosyncrasies.

It orders my day,
Proffers my priorities,
Summarizes my finances,
Reminds me of meetings.

All the variables of life --
All tragedies,
Great loves,
Approaching thunderstorms --
Are known to it.

What was so recently impossible
Is now indispensable.

Nothing exists
That cannot be ordered,

My hand commands a universe:
Another galaxy of
Illumined cubes
Slides into view;

i am summoned . . .
--Mr. Gobley


A Pain in the Neck

i love a good pain in the neck.

i love the communal efforts
of my constituent parts
to find, address, soothe,

Pains, i know, can be ominous:
These i do not love.

What i cherish
Are those pains
That remind me
That i am plugged in --

That synapses and nerve endings,
Corpuscles and cartilage
Are challenged --

That they, too, react and respond.
i am a Tower of Babel,
Reaching toward the Sun --
Made of bricks that breathe.

Unguents and anti-inflammatories
Will reduce the pain
And gently draw a veil over
The urgent, insistent truth:

We are built on air,
Anchored in water.
Tunnels of time run through us.
Atoms collide.
Things fall apart.

We die.

And we go on.

--Mr. Gobley



Is a habit of mind:

It is both a gentle insistence
On setting oneself apart

And a vigilant openness
Toward every aspect of the universe.

It is the birth of real hope,
Being the death of captive fantasy.

Comes from being
Neither slave nor master.

A braid of
One's best attributes --

Persistence --

Independence proclaims itself
The way a flower
Or a stream might--

By simply being,
In each moment,
Insistent on itself
As inevitable,
And new.

--Mr. Gobley


In Praise of the Water Cooler

How am i different
From the water cooler?

i exist to refresh and replenish;
In the end, i am emptied.

Even at night, the doors locked,
The hallways frosted with the
Comforting and impersonal,
Of the overhead fluorescents,

The cooler is ready, vigilant,
Frosted with the perspiration
Of constant effort.

(The workday is no different
From the quietest night --
Existence and service
Know their own rhythms,
To which we are blind.)

Perhaps i am more like
The cup that nourishes me,
But the pattern is the same:


i go on in an infinity
Of droplets
that refresh, replenish
And rise again.

--Mr. Gobley


The Fallen Nest

My steps were directed to it.
There were two baby birds
And a fallen nest on the ground
Beyond the parking lot.

The flies were already making fast work
Of the nestlings.
And as for the mother --
Already moved on, i suppose,

To thoughts of more eggs,
Another nest.
There is grief but no lapse,
A pause, but no waiting.

It is best not to dwell on
The precarious.
Better to do, and make,
And make do.

By Monday, the nestlings will be gone.
i will, i hope and pray,
Be reading
And breathing
And being,
And ceasing to be.

--Mr. Gobley


In praise of rain on my office window

The highway whispers,
The trees bow.

The world is in every drop;
Every drop is in the world.

The sky throws liquid confetti down
Behind the pictures of my family.

Green and gray are the only colors;
Water and earth are the only elements.

For a moment -- this brief moment --
Sustenance is the order of the universe,

And fear is soothed
By the unguent of plenty.

--Mr. Gobley


Ode to a young apple tree

You were born:

As an immanent idea,
As a pinprick of potential,
As a memory-bearing universe.
You were placed beneath the surface
Of life
And came forth as life:

You identified yourself as a node
Through which the Divine
Chose to exist,
And you proclaimed
This nodal outpouring
Steadfastly and faithfully --

You were a seedling.

You traveled:

On the back of a truck, crowded with
Other nodes of Divine efflux,
You moved at speeds
Of which seedlings,
For eons,
Never dreamed.
You glided along exit ramps
And paused at stoplights,
Watching the spinning cylinders
Of cigarette butts and soda cans
Roll toward extinction
Even as you rolled toward some
New beginning
Or quiet,
Malnourished end.

You were chosen:

A purple ribbon was twined through
Your waxen branches.
A tag reading "SOLD"
was stapled to the ribbon --
An award, an epaulet,
A bestowal of
Arboreal anamnesis.

You would move again:
Your roots would find room,
Your branches would breathe their own air
And fix their future directions,
And all the potential within you
Would soon become a river
Flowing toward your extremities
And back into the secret ground
Of your being.

You waited:

Confined in your plastic cone, you stood
Within sight
Of neighbor and soul mate:
Three inches of rain;
A night in the garage to avoid frost;
Winds from north and south:
The thousand small paroxysms of Spring,

And still,
You stood patiently,
Smelling the earth
Into which you would be placed,
Feeling the stippled shadow
Of a small, secluded home.

You were planted:

Our hands grasped our meager tools
And clawed the marbled earth,
Pulled up ribs of clay.
We sculpted a vault of humus,
Laid a quilt of topsoil,
Then a pillow of peat
With treats laid underneath.

And now:

Your roots,
Bent into ovals
Of artificial confinement, begin to turn outward
To greet the life
That will move through you.

You have been brave and patient.
You have been resolute and modest.
You have been, simply and supremely,
A tree.

You are home.

--Mr. Gobley


In Praise of Loneliness

All it takes
To feel loved
Is an interlude
Of utter loneliness.

When i am lonely,
Nothing keeps me company

The All,
In its placid indifference,
Winks at me,
Reflecting shards of light
Off the million
Mirrors of

Nods to me
With wind-bowed treetops,
Quivers in anticipation
And waves madly
With waxen Spring leaves.

Lest i think it is all for me,
i see the
All saluting
the All

From within
The hermitage
Of a self --

We are waving to each other,
You and i
And all,
From high windows
That face each other
Across an abyss --

All that moves
Salutes you;
All that is still
Accompanies you.

Only utter loneliness
Reveals this

--Mr. Gobley


In Praise of Fingernails

This morning i awoke
to find that a screwdriver
had grown
on the end of each finger.

O wonderful world,
where the body grows
the means of procurement
and repair!

What awaits?
What calls to us?
We are made to build
and to mend --
our fingertips
attest to this.

i am my own set of tools,
gone off into the world
in search of all
that needs


Procrastination and Fear

Prophesies defeat

Sees the future as sealed
Guarantees what it fears

i fear
Blind corners

Delivers all of these

And yet:
What other creature
Can procrastinate?

Who else
Among God's creatures
Can name their fear of failure?

i bow
To the great gray emptiness
Of my inertia --

And to my ability
To name it
And draw it near.

Perhaps, later,
i will leap tall buildings
In a single bound . . .

--Mr. Gobley


The hard work of meditation

It never ends.

The creaking bones
The sigh of the highway
The semaphore of my avian neighbors

The slow arising and falling away
Of breath
And everything else:

None of it ends --
It only begins.

The mind is subdued
Like a frightened mare,
Slowly and with loving reassurance.

Soon, what arises
Bows to me,
i bow to the arising

And then all is enfolded
In the bow of Being
Toward All That Is.

In this way,
i mark the passage of essence
Through the vestibule of
Being human,
Toward the great hall

--Mr. Gobley


In Praise of a Splinter


In a dry river bed
Carving the canyon
Of one finger print:

A shaft.

The finger must be held up
Against a dark background . . .
A translucent projectile
From some angry angel.

And yet:
Each time you brush against it,
An alarm goes through
Your entire

It is the thrill
Of the threading of nerves,
Experience --
And in it, too:
A premontion
The End
That comes with each

How, you might ask,
Can something so small
Pervade your consciousness,
Arrest your day,
Force its way
To the front?

The splinter says:
Pay attention.

It says:
You are one
And many.

How finely woven you are,
And how attuned
To the missives
And missiles

That remind you
To pay attention.

The splinter is gone,
But not the spirit that sent it.

The splinter found its mark,
Made its wound:
A world poured in behind it.

Thank it.

--Mr. Gobley



When nothing beckons --

When the striving
And the gasping,
The wrenching,
The breaking-down;

When the struggle to
In the face of the
Relentless rush
Of non-Being
Seems too much--

Remember that
Is not the absence
Of everything.

Lives in its own
Dark universe,
Twinned with ours;

It is the sieve that strains
Our Being.

We all pass through it;
We all live on in a sacred
A revivifying recombination
Of the atoms of our
Tiny selves.

The pain we feel
In holding ourselves together
Is the exquisite throbbing
Of the nerve-end
Life itself.

Grasp that holy agony
And you will begin
To understand
All that is possible,

Beginning with this:
And no-thing
Not two,
Not one.

We traverse the solitary seam
Of Life
On the balance beam
Of Being.

We must dance,
No matter the risk.

--Mr. Gobley


In Praise of Waiting

Beneath the crust of the frozen earth,
Spring has already been formed.

Just so,
Within your skin, your All

Not with bated breath,
But with silent assurance,

The exalted inhalations
Of promise.

We fear that we may
Never fulfill that promise,
And so we live in a flaccid fury,

Enraged at all that holds us back.

In fact, what holds us back
Is precisely where blessing resides:
This is the fulcrum of promise,
Not the ministrations of the malevolent
Or sheer bad luck.

Know this:

Your promise never will be fulfilled.
Instead, it will expand for eons --
A universe of potential
Unleashed by you,
Echoed from you,
Emanating from you.

What you never will be
Is the space to be filled
By those who loved you,
Who lived in your universe,

Breathed your promise;
Their exhalations of memory

And disperse,
To the winds,
The molecules,
The miracle

Of your abiding

--Mr. Gobley


In praise of my depression

Every now and then
The gray eagle
Lands on my shoulder.

The talons
A dull ache
A shadow

A weight
That presses
And does not relent

The world:
An anvil
On which blood's rhythm
Is hammered

The Sun:
The dreaded cataract
Of conscience.

The sky:
A sharp-edged sheet
Of flattened brass
That does not forgive.

Only night
Offers dimension and color;
Only the dark has depth
And holds out a shard
Of cold compassion.

i slide
Down the soul's sine curve
And praise the purgatory
Of my shame.
i think:

"Oh, to be truly alone:
To be without
A Self."

After which
A spark of self-loathing
Ignites the smoldering,
Clears the thistled ground
For new growth:

A small bud
Opens its petals
Being. . .

--Mr. Gobley



The detritus of past lives
Clatters behind me --
The chains of
Marley's ghost.

Ingots, idols,

Mementos from a time
That begs to be forgotten.

There is much --
Even here, in my inner sanctum --
That i have trained myself not to see.

Having become adept at not-seeing,
i learn to un-see in every facet of my life.

The more i un-see,
The closer i am

My soul says to my mind:
Save me.

My mind says to my soul:
Save me.

i say to you,
As i fade to gray:

Save yourself.

--Mr. Gobley