Saturday, December 27, 2008


Wild, tangled hair slopping over jacket’s edge
Chapped skin, cracked feet, broken nails
Mortifying bruises on the hand, arm, thigh
Badges of honor
My mum would be appalled

Small actions ring deep, filling up my soul:
• Snug wrap of cuff around my wrist
• Snick of plug in socket
• Settling of chin in mask
• Slap of hand on thigh


When did sweat become the smell of happiness?


My leg throbs, a warm and gentle ache
Reassurance—if that’s the worst, then all is well


Driving home
A wordless rumination on
What worked and did not work
Water for the whetstone
Honing practice

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Tallying accounts
Inventory of my cluttered poverty
I total up and find

I’ve got zip…a blank portfolio of skills

I accept, reluctantly,
(After many scribbled failures to recalculate my net)
         I know nothing
                    Manage nothing
                           Control even less
Not mind, body, soul or destination

An empty purse, indeed

And so I wait for charity
A simple dispensation that
Costs nothing, empties no one else’s pocket
Because I cannot purchase, earn, demand or wrestle from the world
Enough to meet my basic needs:

Insight, patience and perception
          Ability to act on what I see
                      The loosening of fear, unleashing humor, licensing it to bloom
          The trust to let my intuition guide my hand
Uncomplicated, priceless qualities that elude my grasp

Meanwhile, I’m not exactly unemployed
I put in my time
Faithful practice, dedicated work
Even while I know
They barely pay the rent
They won’t lift me higher up on Maslow’s scale

So here I sit
Hands resting loosely on my knees
Palms up, open in petition
Letting go of expectations

It may be some time

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dead Last

Someone has to be there
Anchoring the bottom of the list
The benthic depth against which
Others mark their prowess

But for it to be me!

My pride wilts
I sink into my cold and smelly sweats
Flip the hood up on my jacket
Slink from the soprano gaggle clustered at the board
Hope to be unnoticed and unknown

My ego, valiant even in retreat
Advances explanations:
“I was working on my form
In disciplined and lofty disregard
Of mere results”


The video, unversed in social graces,
coldly offers up the stark
Uncompromising truth

I stink

The adjectives abound
Where I seek grace, power
Confidence and clever phrase
The cold screen offers:
Panicked, awkward, slow
Flat-footed, dazed and overmatched
Ever one full beat behind

Packing up my fancy blades
Lovely in their simple, focused forms
(Designed to do one thing, and do it well)
Apologizing for the shame I bring to them
That would be brave, victorious and proud
In better hands
A small and timid thought intrudes
Somehow making itself heard
Amid the clamorous reproach
The vivid replayed scenes of
Every touch against

“Wasn’t it,”
It whispers
“Damn fun, despite the damage to our pride?”

I pause and contemplate my glove,
Sweaty and misshapen
Curled as it if still clutched at the grip
Calculating, counting up the days,
‘Til I can try again

Friday, December 12, 2008


A solitary human—so such thing
We exist as nodes where interactions intersect
Friends, teachers, lovers, rivals, foes
By their proximity attract, repel
Change our valence
Sometimes intermesh
Become a fluid part of who we are

Independence is a myth
A fear of perturbation
Of interplay with forces that
Can shift our orbit
Disrupt our steady state
Collide and scatter particles illuminating
Our true identity

Trust your inner nature
Its gravity and mass
Are stable attributes
Encoding all the best of the real “I”
Trade the false strength of autonomy for
Adamantine weave of I and thou, he and she
You hazard what? The loss of fictive self, but gain the world…

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Table of Equivalents

½ hour morning yoga = soy milk in my coffee
¾ hour gym at lunch break = 6 dark chocolate coated espresso beans
100 lunges = 10 half-salt almonds (Trader Joe’s—the best!)
1 hour practice = 1 cookie
3 hour weeknight practice = grilled cheese at midnight
4 hour weekend practice = 1 extra breakfast pancake and a Luna bar at break
1 perfect weeks’ attendance (yoga, gym and practice) = beer on Friday night

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Catalog of Sins (Western Canon)

My toenail,
Blackened when I kicked the floor
Seven weeks ago,
Drops off

I cannot have lost
You are not even rated…
I have earned my ‘C’!

A tangled pile
Of gold, bronze, silver, ribbons…
I try not to look

You fence so well against
The one who conquered me!
Outside, I cheer. Inside, I burn.

As the night winds down
All the lovely torsos bared
Uniforms are shed

Easy touches are
Like icing in the bowl. Must
I eat my veggies?

It was too much fun!
I fenced late into the night
Now my foot rebels

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fur, Foil, Friends

Bears are warm and witty
Wise and good companions
They speak with clarity and grace
About the painful truths that haunt us all
And with their words help put the world to right
Once roused, they are a fearsome foe
But settle soon, and are prepared to hug
And offer paws of peace
To smaller mammals

Badger is quite pleased
To have a Bear as friend

Waiting Game

My half unfocused gaze
Rests lightly on your chest
My only task to breathe, relax and wait
While wrapping your attention in my
Dance of back and forth, of glide and bounce

There is no deadline to be met
No urgency to force the meeting of our blades
This is a challenge match of patience
A race to be the last to launch an act
In which the victor revels in defense
The vanquished victim to his own attack

In a world of options without end
Success dwells in narrowing the choice
One road is to dominate and seize control
The other, softer path to wait with open mind
Gently cultivating space that shapes opponents’ acts
Catch whatever comes and bend it to your will

The lesson taught?
Do only that which must be done

Monday, November 10, 2008

Morning After

Bag of dirty clothes
A medal in my pocket
Warmth of parting hugs

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Training to Failure

A simple theory
Stress the muscles ‘til they ache, twinge, quiver, shake, protest
Can do no more
And this abuse provokes a blossoming of strength
As bundled fibers swell, group, stretch, expand
Adapting to a world in which they fail

All well and good, and tested to the max

But you apply this theory to my mind
Demanding skill and speed my intuition lacks
Dangling success one step beyond what I can do
And snatch away no matter how I try
Will it work, or does it just excoriate the soul?
The pain is real, and I can only hope
The growth is, too

Meanwhile, can you provide an icepack for my pride?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vi Saludo

These lady warriors
So brave
To face our aging bodies,
Fears and limitations

Each day a battle with
Breath, bruise, muscle, bone
Testing boundaries that seem
Daily to constrict

We with apprehension watch
The intersecting arc of our improvement
With waning balance, suppleness and speed
Time’s triumph is secure

This arm, that yesterday was strong
Today is weak and hesitant
This ankle, merely tweaked
A fortnight later still protests

In daily work we are so
Arrogant, so proud, assured
Of our superiority of mind
Our nimble words

But on the strip
Are humbled by uncompromising
Clash of truth and expectations
Yet we persist with stubbornness and will

We have a few advantages with age
Relying more on cunning and on guile
Some small wisdom guides our path
And hardens our intent

Bravery is facing what you fear
Forging on with passion and with joy
Each of us has won a battle with ourselves
Through pain, through tears and fierce frustration

As we meet our edge, we pause and ask for grace
And push on through
Finding moments of perfection
Moments are enough

We each do what we can
Vi saludo

Sunday, October 12, 2008


The master’s stick can lean unused
Against the wall
A quiet warning

Your silent laughter and your smile
Break through my false conceptions
More forcefully than any blow


Teaching is finding what is good,
Coaxing it forth,
Burning off the rest

I barely tolerate the heat
Like bare hand near open flame
My instinct is to pull away

Learning is an exercise in trust
I walk the fire
Trusting your intent

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Begin Again

Starting with the bag
Each necessary object
Tucked in its own place

Socks, shoes, knickers, cord
Glove, cups, jacket, sleeve, lamé
Foils in their sheaths

Bombing down the road
Music blasting, joy unleashed

Tackling the stairs
Pulse springs at muted clash of
Coruscating blades

Who am I tonight?
Bold, clever, swift? More often
Hesitant and scared

Either one affords
A priceless chance to practice
Seeking for myself

Wandering with wise,
Strong, generous companions
Satisfied at heart

Afterwards, descent
Walking into clear dark night
Stars shine, unimpressed

This is what I have
A blank page, a lifting heart
And best, a fresh start

Monday, September 29, 2008

No Win

I fight a hopeless battle on the strip
A foe I never will defeat—my coach
Each thought, word, deed the butt of clever quip
With each earnest attempt, I earn reproach
Outcome ordained, the deck already stacked
My confidence and will adroitly cracked
Do I not see the exercise has changed?!
Be smart! If you see opening, then leap!
Your acts must be spontaneous, unplanned
But do exactly what I say, don’t sleep!
With weaker opponents I “just compete”
With stronger foes my action’s incomplete
Wrist flops, arm bends, I lag, and miss my cue
Improve! But do not try, no try—just do
If you say you come to practice, come!
Excuses just provoke an Arctic chill
Sore arm, bruised rib, pulled muscle, swollen thumb
Mere lies to hide a most unstable will
But, if I’m honest, I’m forced to admit
The blame for this fiasco lies with me
I brought it on myself, and must submit
Why did I ever say I want my “B”?!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Unbalanced Equation

I never got the hang of algebra

Strangely, later on, I took to Calculus right off, following the soaring arcs of growth. Manipulating limits--I’m all about that.

Statistics tickled me, contradicting common sense, puncturing pretense, promising a glimpse of hidden truth.

But earlier, about eighth grade, I hit a wall. At first, it seemed not bad, solving for a variable or two. Unknown quantities—that’s just life.

But bump that up to three, and I was lost. No clear route to the solution—just the equation standing like a brick wall. I couldn’t see a door, much less the key. I would leap, dodge, batter or negotiate, all to no avail. Ending, bruised and baffled, in a blizzard of paper documenting failed attacks.

My best friend—she could see the answer, obvious and ordinary, waiting at the gate. But how, I asked seeking Cliff Notes for the koan). “It just is” she demurred, “I can’t say how.” And so she shared in my poor grades, but for the opposite sin—arriving on time and in the right place without a mapping of the route.

And now, damn it all, it turns out to be a necessary skill, and not abstract at all. Fencing, work and home, facing off against the one set value, 24 uncompromising hours.

Wrestling with two, I’ll strike a precious truce—adequate practice, a home-cooked meal, and wham, the third collapses, my misleading strength undone by lack of sleep. Or sleep gains ground, and work suffers, scattered on my desk at end of day.

Most often these two vie for time: the household and the blade. Some weeks, I spend more time awake in company of coach than with my spouse. And how to place a value on this “a”, this “b”? The arduous simplicity of practice: the company of seekers, challenges to everything I know or think I know, a life’s work, a constant tempest of the soul. The comforting and mundane tasks of life: the cats fed, bread baked, garden weeded, a decade’s long duet of growth and change unfolding slowly, slowly.

The math is clear—I can’t have both, at least not all of both. And thinking back, I remember that these problems have, in fact, two answers, two stable states, each equally true. There is no balance in between, caught in an unsteady state. So even if the answer comes, if intuition strikes, and it just
is, the answer’s not an answer but a choice.

I never got the hang of algebra...

Friday, September 12, 2008

An Invitation

Step across the line, into the sacred space
Encompassing our practice
Enter a timeless world
Commit to mindfulness, to curiosity

Settle inward, spiral towards the light
That shines within, pretense strips away
Unveiling our true selves
Each perfect as we are, yet striving towards perfection

Then blossom outward
Capturing each sound each scent each touch
Reeling in the world
And cast it back, with confidence and grace

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Metta Meditation

May I be safe from inner and outer harm
Splinter and blade, passion and regret
May I be happy and peaceful at heart
As puddled cat, splayed in summer sun
May I be well and strong
Respite from rip, bruise, tear, and time
May I pursue joy in my life
Up to the edge of the world, and on

Sunday, July 27, 2008


A sharp and clever face
A biting wit
A fertile thumb
A feeling for the dough
Facility with words sufficient to bamboozle even me
Innumerable bruises at any give time, inside and out
A deep unease
     About my motivations, certainties, and trust
Compassion, hobbled by my doubts
Astounding arrogance and pride
     Combined with expectations none could meet, especially me
A small mole on the sole of my left foot
A callused right forefinger (balancing my blade)
A twining net of scars upon my arm, the map of my impatience
A hunch there can be more, even after forty-seven years
The list will grow and change...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


for no good reason, that:

the bread will rise
guests will laugh, slurp, nibble, flirt, and head home
sated, happy, eager to return
tomato seeds, pushed into warm and weedy earth, will fruit and topple
my touch will land, firm, gentle and precise
You will still be there, a warm and softly wheezing lump beneath the sheet
when I awake

all without my effort,
or control

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I am a conference of self
Rancorous, unintegrated, vying for control

I: Adventurer                             
I: Protector of the Status Quo
Active, curious, engaged            
Opinionated, certain, self-assured
Seeking novelty and risk             
Cherishing the known, true, safe
Challenged, I leap                      
Poked, I bite

I: Competitor                            
I: Friend and Lover
Jealous, needy, insecure           
                                                     considerate and warm
Pursuing victory                        
Caring for the other
Stroked, I purr  
Asked, I give

Somewhere at the center: one fixed point
A budding Bodhisattva
Aware, awake, and unattached
Watches with compassion
A little bit amused.
Please, take charge…

Friday, July 18, 2008

Before the First Bout

Poised, on guard
Slowly, slowly letting go my breath
Savoring the most perfect moment
The next few minutes, a glorious unknown
    There is a chance,
            My mind will clear
           My feet will dance,
           My blade will find its mark
    I will be clever, cunning, humorous and wise
I will be bold and unconstrained
I will, I will…
All things are possible…

Falling Short

Я пуля в оружии
Я катушка пружине
Я наскок в кошке

Но, иногда

Порох влажен
Катушка застревает
Кошка спит

I am the bullet in the gun
I am the coiled spring
I am the cat's leap

But sometimes

The powder is damp
The spring jams
The cat sleeps

Барсук Доверия


I trust
Each action has no end
Each touch—only a beginning
Phrase flows to phrase
A conversation patiently unfolds

Я доверяю
Каждое действие не имеет никакого конец
Каждое укол есть только начало
Фраза течет в фраза
Разговор терпеливо открывается

in collaboration with V. Pokalenko

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Facing the Target

Three perfect touches at each distance
A small ambition

Three, and three is six,
And three is nine, and three is twelve—perfection, bliss.

But building touch on touch is like balancing
A stack of cups, a house of cards
Each next one less stable than the last
And tension rises as I near the twelfth
As if it mattered
As if it had significance, and weight

But why? The end is not an end
This a circle, not a line
I touch the twelfth,
Step close, and start the round again

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Strategy (in few words)

Breathe Дышите
Watch Наблюдайте
Dance Танцуйте
See См.
Explode Взорвитесь
Pause Пауза
Assess Оцените
Think Думайте
Don’t think Не думайте
Act Сделайте
Breathe Дышите

Repeat Повторитесь

A Quantum Theory of Fencing

First Theorem
I exist
In two conflicting states
Belief and unbelief
I see
Countless possibilities
And hard, unyielding truth
I hear
Everything you say
But know

Nothing of who you are

On some level, are we truly one?

Second Theorem
My opponent is entangled in my truth
Our patterned touches spangled on lames
I see his actions prior to his acts
My mind shapes exactly his attacks
(Spooky action at a fencing distance)
He marches, blade occupying everywhere at once
But in the end
All his possible attacks collapse to one
Exactly where my blade waits
Anticipating future states

I am here now; both beginning and the end

Third Theorem
Aware of all, focused on none
Balanced on the narrow edge
Forward and back
Future and past
Action and reaction
Curious and open to any end
Detached observer of the bout