Thursday, December 31, 2009


Fear less
Abandon being brave
And with entire heart
Impale myself upon your blade

With steady breath
Resisting my uncivil urge to
Nip the sluggish heels of time

To time before reality
Placed hobbles on my fun
And second thoughts gave pause

As many times as I fall short
Fall in, fall down, fall over. Accept that
All this is perfection

Be here
Right now, oblivious to future or the past
Attuned to my internal hum, your every telltale twitch
The throb and bustle of the competition

But most important (and if I can achieve but one, this one)
In hurtling myself o’er each new cliff to test my wings
In breathing, this pedestrian, miraculous act
In playing, wanton without thought of gain
In living in this moment balanced on the chiseled edge of time

Я посылаю свою любовь всем моим друзьям
- наилучшие пожелания в течение хорошего нового года

Friday, December 25, 2009

Season's Greetings

Midwinter! Celebrate
The periodic birth of hope
Promise of redemptive grace

Tread through the cleansing snow
Shaking from our feet the old year’s residue of
Imperfect thoughts and dirty deeds

We all need light to guide us through these darkest days
Whether embodied in a
Sacred babe or sacred flame

Not to minimize the yawning gap that lies between
Your faith and mine--yours, I think,
Encompasses a deity who cares about your fate

I take comfort in the universe’ indifferent gaze
Trusting it will be what it will be
Without regard for me and mine

When I despair I sit
Contemplating geologic time
Confident that it will erase all
Gaffes, embarrassments and outright epic fails
Mine, personally, and ours, collectively

Cruel and thoughtless words, sloppy work
Fallen cakes and faulty strategy;
Strip mines, ravished forests, foolish legislation
The random deadly detritus of war
The neighbor’s monstrous addition

On many sleepless nights it’s this thought grants me rest:
In the long term all that I regret will be
Buried in volcanic dust
Crushed by glaciers
Subducted under continental plate

But for this Mayfly life, I still welcome
This phoenix season, flame’s renewing bite
The swelling sun
Imperfections shrouded in a transitory veil of white
The temporary kindness of the world

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Joyous Junkanoo

Saturday, December 19, 2009


A step…is like a word

And like a word
Has endless shades of meaning,
And intent

It could be…

Sneaky, nonchalantly closing distance
As you prepare to strike

Teasing, daring me to think that
I can make my move

Slippery, making me
O’er shoot

As you segue to your lunge

So, you step
And I attend
Decoding which of all of these it signifies
Composing my reply

Whoops! Too late…
I’d better learn to speed up my translation

Friday, December 18, 2009


The puppy slept ‘til five this morn,
Not three

The coffee spills, but soaks the magazine
And not my book

My supervisor is too overwhelmed
To comment on my work

My riposte goes astray, but lands upon your bib
Negating your remise

The scar upon my tummy catches when I lift
Not when I lunge

My hamstring aches, but only after practice
Driving home

Each day another piece of me is weak, or torn or stressed
From half a century of use

And yet…they work

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Eighty Percent

Extremely odd sensation—I’m focused on my gut when
By all rights I should pay full attention to
Your imminent attack

One corner of my mind keeps watch upon the
Stiff and tender patch that marks
My weakest point

All my movements are a little bit restrained
Holding back, as if I’m not quite sure that on the lunge
My insides won’t pop out

Here’s the oddest thing of all—the outcome
Of this inward contemplation, enforced passivity
Is not half bad

Instead of battering myself against the solid wall of your defense
I watch a bit and wait, let myself accept
What random opportunities present

A simple tap, a gentle lunge into the open space beneath your arm
The grace of wiggling aside while you
Impale yourself upon my blade

The nature of this side effect? A lack of expectation
I feel fortunate to be upon the strip at all. No inner demon’s driving me to
Ratchet up the score

When I’m entirely reformed—insides zippered and secure
Will I retain this gratitude for taking up the blade
Regardless of results?

I’m fifty, after all. Soon every year will hold
Less strength, less speed
Progressive limitations

And so I practice with this gift I have received
A wound that pierces time, a glimpse of future states
A fractured wisdom

Hit me if you can—but we may both discover less is more

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Class Notes

This welt upon my chest
The bruise that marks your thumb—cuneiform notations
Shorthand for
Extended conversation about undiscovered worlds
Documenting gaps in understanding
That lie between your blade and mine

Inking random thoughts
Incidental to the main thrust of our arguments
Theories tested and discarded as
We work through possibilities

These transient records fade
The vellum healed, rewritten
Time on time on time
As our exchanges loop, progress, stall
Turn back upon themselves and
Finally leap forward
To enlightenment

A fresh bruise blossoms, introducing the next chapter
In our text

Saturday, November 28, 2009


“I’m tired, and my foot is sore”
“I’ve already fenced you twice, I’ll wait
For a new opponent”
“My tip tape’s shredded and untidy”
(So pick at it with forefinger and thumb)
“Let’s not really fence, let’s whack, instead”
“It’s almost time to go, I might as well relax”
“Look! Cookies! I will eat just one. I earned it, right?”

So many ways to cleverly evade
The rigors of real practice
Playing ball,
Arguing the touch (yours or mine, and why?)
Debating fine interpretation of the rules

And (worst of all) the subtle laziness
That looks like earnest effort
Doing the same action
O’er and o’er and o’er
Why? Because it works
Avoiding the real challenge of
Experiment, and failure

So ask yourself,
How best to use the small and precious span
You have within this salle?
Why, just for example, are you wasting time
Reading this damn poem!?

Badger says: get back to work…

Monday, November 9, 2009


How, through such a little gash
Can all my strength leak out?
Prideful muscles sidelined by
The weakest link

Suddenly, it’s not hard to find
A challenge
Just pulling on my socks’
Sufficiently ambitious

All of nature’s order overturned
Lolling in bed? A virtue
Jello—looks quite tasty
Pillows—feel like rocks

I crave heating pads and ice
A purring cat in quest of lap
Provokes a cringe

Robbed of comfort normally maintained by
Combat and contention
My practice turns
To skills I rarely cultivate

Stillness, rest, inaction
Turning inward to assess my body’s needs
Listening to pain instead of shrugging

Struggling for control
I set myself heroic tasks
Sleeping eight full hours
Passing up the weights

I could do quite well without this
Vivid demonstration of
The dharma’s truth
The frail impermanence of all illusive strength

Lesson learned—now give me a reprieve of ten or twenty years
Before the teaching is applied in force

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Koan

Do badgers share

I’m not sure

We cannot sit for hours underneath the Pipal tree
Contemplating life
We tend to wander off, distracted
rooting for the truth through leaf and loam
None of us I know have reached

But there are some faint signs of commonality

We are sufficiently perturbed by illness, old age, death
The prospect of a merely prosperous life
To flee from comfort, as if it were itself the cause of suffering
Taking up the sword instead, for spiritual battle

We’re a little heartless when it comes to hearth and home
Spouses left in empty beds to fret
While we quest off, wandering in company of
Good, wise, somewhat strange companions

And sometimes, silent in the muffled night
Trundling along our way
Just for a moment, we see the world the way it is
Not black and white, but endless shades of grey

And so I ask again
Do badgers share in Buddha nature?
I think maybe yes

But here’s the rub: our bodhi status does no earthly good
We’re mindful of this state, awake to possibilities

So if you notice I’m asleep, please
Give me a shove and wake me up
To start the search again
I promise not to bite...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Impromptu (экспромтом)

Hmmm, a dash of allspice
Would amplify the cinnamon

No applesauce!
A jar of Trader Joe Mango Puree, instead

The moths have nested in the whole wheat flour
Ick. Mix white whole wheat with rye

You counterattack
My feint seamlessly segues into a finished lunge

You flèche and try to mow me down
Hey look! A parry 2 and riposte to your back as you run by

Your arm pulls back, minutely, on your step
Attack on preparation—Bam!

My best ideas come when I do not think

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Upekkha (Equanimity)

Losing with good humor
—a skill at which I’d rather not become adept
By dint of earnest repetition

Alas, it seems this is the
Awkward grace I’m granted
Opportunity to practice

OK, then—get it right

The outward forms are not so hard
The smile, the bow, the hand that grasps
Transferring strength to victor from the vanquished

Grab the body cord and tug
Gently extract the splintered pride
That’s lodged beneath my nails

Neatly mark my name
Scribble without jabbing through the slip
That documents my every defect, touch by touch

Thank the ref no matter what
(drunk, hung over, deafened by his ear buds, generous with cards)
Neatly pack and stow my sodden gear

And turn to cheer my teammates
Ruthlessly suppressing jealousy
That flares with every lovely touch that is not mine

So this is my assignment:

Acceptance of abiding
In a world I can’t manipulate
To suit my ends

At this rate, there’s chance I’ll reach perfection
Then can I move on to study victory?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Nama Sanghaya

One—a constant source of cheer
One—sets an example with her dogged persistence
One—despite his arrogance is very good to fence, an education
One—freely dispenses copious advice (often unsought)
One—a quiet source of wisdom, spreading calm
Several rough and tumble squirts whose gleeful scrapping
Lifts my heart

Some regular as rising and procession of the sun
Some lunar in their periodic practice
Some footloose comets swinging through when fancy strikes
Others flame, burn out and disappear

Somehow these fractious elements
With precious little commonality
Integrate and form
Coherent constellations
Mapping our relationships from one to one to one
And finally to all

In this refuge
Nobody gets forgotten
No one’s left behind

Here are my teachers, my training and
My strange and lumpy family
Slightly broken but still good
Yes, give thanks
Still good

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Why am I always fencing your last touch?
Maybe you look at my frustrations and you see—yourself

I become a mirror into time
Tilting towards the past
An endlessly repeating loop—
The moment when you froze;
Fractional slip in your attention;
A fatal and whole-hearted choice
In the wrong direction

But I’m not you
Or him, for what that’s worth
It does no good to nail me with
The oh-so-clever riposte that occurred to you
A little bit too late
It doesn’t change the outcome
Just leaves me bruised

So turn the mirror to the wall, ok?
Reset the clock
Focus on what’s here, right now
On writing stories into future history
I promise, if you choose to try again
I’ll be there on your side, cheering every action
Empathizing with you on the lousy calls

Meanwhile, let’s take it as an article of faith that you can hit me
anytime you want
No need to prove that theorem—let’s move on.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Please Don't (Fencing Etiquette 101)

Wipe your nose on your off hand
And then extend to shake

Wash your uniform and socks
Once or twice a month

Step upon an open strip, plug in
And then proceed to yak

On rare nights when I beat you
Mention that you’re having an off night

Whup me up and down the strip, and then
Mention that you’re having an off night

Courtesy is really not so hard
Just make believe I’ll do the same to you

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Preparation: Take II

Tip, tap, not too fast

Give a little bounce and a tickle and a bite
Push, pull, push, pull
Not too tight

Make a little dash with a stutter and a thump
In out back forth
Watch me jump

Give a little squirm and a wiggle and a twist
Run away, duck down
Hah! You missed

Feint and tease
And patter and glide
Slip towards the middle…
And finish outside

Tip, tap, not too fast

Monday, September 14, 2009


Route smooth the groove with acetone and rag
Again, again, again in patient repetition
Until the cloth shows clean, ready for the wire to bed down

Thread the barrel on, snug tight
Too loose, and with each touch it will unwind itself a smidge
Too tight and it will crevasse up its side

Wire, cheerful in unblemished red or blue
Carefully untangle from its coil
Sulphur scratch of match on box,
Insulation flares and crumbles into soot
The file’s gentle rasp revealing
Copper bright

Blind probing for the tiniest of holes
Tink, tink, tink
Not there, not there, not there, there
Escalating whine of metal slide, rising like a query
Answered by the firm thump of
Contact seating in the barrel’s heart

Spring and point popped in, tamped down
Latent energy entrapped by
(breath, relax) the tiniest of screws
Balanced on the driver’s lodestone tip
Gently gyred into place

Arch the blade, tense against the jig
Mimicking the pose it will repeat a thousand times
Presaging the touch
Nudge sluggish glue before the tube’s broad snout
Rolling down the long, cool length of steel
Consummating union

An hour or two of rest

Slip of insulation, final dot of glue
Sandwich on the guard and socket, pad
Choose the grip and snug it on the tang
Briskly tight the nut
Wind the wire
Round and round the socket
One more turn
Snip the dangling end and
(moment of truth)
Plug the tester in

Mazel tov—a weapon’s born
I christen you Red-Grey and tape you
So your colors wave upon your tip
May you have a long and joyous life of battle

And please don’t break tonight…

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Bargain

That was not my touch
Sure, it was my
Arm, blade, point, light
&, finally, score
I mean it was not me
No conscious self guided that clever glide
Around your wicked parry,
Picking up the blade on your riposte
And sailing home into
The sweet square inch between your
Shoulder and your bib

Me? I sat back and watched,
—it was very pretty
Opa! Bravo.
But if not me, then Who?
Perhaps some wayward numen, looking for a game
Lured by glittering lamés, beeps and pretty flashing lights

Well, if this is enchantment
Let me be possessed
I will perform an exorcism in reverse
You’re welcome, spirit, to
Take on my puppet flesh
Make it appear
Athletic, and adept

In return I will provide
What little currency I have to trade…
A body trained as well as I am able,
Strong and fed and somewhat rested
(And cookies, lots of cookies, if it pleases)
A minimum of injuries
Brave blades, and worthy opponents
Copious opportunity to
Exercise your art
Deal? Spit on your incorporeal hand and shake

Here’s an empty space inside, where you can settle
Shaped to hold my soul, or center (call it what you will)
I’ve checked many times—It’s vacant, waiting for a tenant
See what a good fit!
Could have been hand-tailored to your lines
Almost as if, as if…

Dammit, where’ve you been all these long years?! Hey, wait, come back!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Strategy Wheel

Starting simply
Straight lunge into four
Just 80 percent-a most convincing feint
Physical telepathy
A gentle probing of your
State of mind
Observe your twitch of blade
The shadow of your parry (duly noted)
Dictates my next act—a feint in four and disengage to six

And since it worked, why not? I try again
But having tweaked the dial
You select a suitable response—
Parry circle four, riposte

And so I shift in turn and add
A crafty circle disengage and end in six
and touch, again

Action follows act
Building the bout’s narrative
The story’s arc
A logical progression
Increasingly complex
Until the balance tips and I
Drop back
To the simplest of acts
And feint…

Break distance, breathe
The wheel begins again

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Guru (Dispelling Shadows)

Floundering about
In search of, what?
     A feeling of the world beneath my feet
     Shifting in predictable procession, not
     Seismic leaps
     Some faint perception of
     Habitual patterns
     The consequences of my acts
     For concentric circles of all living things
     Impinging on my world
     And (hardest of all) myself

Humph. Fifty years of going it alone and not much change

Books, and lectures, theories, books and books
At last, I’m driven to concede
Despite my dogged independence
I need a teacher

Not out in the world
But centered in my heart
Who knows my inner darkness, stratagems, evasions
Sees thru my feline pretense of “I meant it to come out that way”
Won’t let me glide past problems with my clever words
Gently merciless, relentless
Accepting no excuses
Believing that I give my best
And firmly asking more

And look,
Despite my lack of faith
The world sends me what I need

Be careful what you wish for….
Growing pains are hell

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Small Good Things

Tightening a grip
Carefully re-taping every blade
Working at the target, touch by patient touch
Footwork, up and down the strip

Cleaning out the pantry
Checking every bag for sign of moth or mouse
Scouring the pans
Washing down the counters

Cultivating contacts
Earnest curiosity that may or may not “pay off”
Giving shape to thoughts and posting to the blog
Checking off my tasks

Daunted by the prospect of attaining, what?
     A rating earned
     The perfect cake
     Stability in my career
I fall back on
Minor, necessary acts
Nothing monumental

Concentrate on each small step upon the path
Not the final destination
Trusting that the end will find itself

Comforting myself with small, good things

Monday, August 3, 2009

Muscle Memory

Encoded in the grain
By dint of endless repetition

The difference between
     Theory and practice
     Thought and execution

If I could do this thirty years ago—
The actions live within me still, correct?
Hidden by disuse
Atrophied, but waiting to awake
(If my aging body can support the strain)

Clumsily I mimic my much younger self
Working from imperfect recollection
Seeking some detail--
     Sound of blade on blade
     Scent of sweat and leather
A shock that will reverse the flow of time
Evoke the nerves’ potential

If the theory’s sound
If I’m not so changed by growth, experience and time
That what worked then is ill-fitting now
If so, what then?

Time to write new memories
Scrape the palimpsest and start again…

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shunyata (Vacancy)

Fills me up like
Water, or like wine
Fingertip to bone
Omphalos to earlobe
Leaving not a
Niche, cranny, fold, corner, diverticulum
Open to receive
Blossoming of basic skills that hide within

I am
Too much cluttered with the
Hunger for perfection
Jealousy for bling
An attic of attachments

Puncture my pretentions, please
Just the smallest prick--
Let these longings seek their lowest level
Leaking from my toe-tips
Bleeding from my nails

Leaving me washed clean
Void of preconceptions
Filled with possibility

Room for improvement

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kaizen (改 善—Small Improvements)

Little steps, balanced forth
And back, keeping options open
Ready to explode

Feint and run away
Teasing you to push and charge
Hah! Counterattack

You can push, and push
Good! I pull distance, beat, deceive
Parry and riposte

You make touch against
Now I know what you will do
Here—try it again…

Incremental change
Subtle transformation, not

I can live with that--
Each instar a bit improved
It will be enough

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Equanimity (Trade-offs)

In breaking free of suffering
Following defeat,
For rare and precious victories
Must joy mute too?

Achieving non-attachment
Would I misplace
The slightly batty dedication
Needed for success?

I’m just as happy not to be
Swept up in rage and self-reproach
Embarrassed by my petty fulminations
A mini-diva stomping on the strip

Accepting the results
My breath and body, instincts, mind and soul
Produce this day, this hour
Feels right, feels good
(Certainly more civilized)
And yet…

I fear acceptance morphed into complacency
     Lingering in bed on lazy mornings
     Skimping on the weights
     Staying home from practice, now and then
Worst of all, not fighting tooth and nail for every touch

So here’s the goal, ok?
     A happy discontent
     Passionate detachment
     Restless cessation
Dynamic tension, keeping me in play

It’s not so hard—just smile, bow, accept the baser metal
Hang it on the wall
A drishti—point of meditation—
Fueling the alchemical pursuit of gold

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stalling for Time (A Veteran's Wiles)

Excuse me sir, my
Shoe has come untied, may I
Kneel, and bind it up?

Hair! Hair in the face
Hair in the mouth (ptooie)
Thanks, it’s better now

Halt halt halt! Pardon…
The stupid grip is loose, you see?
(Fumble for the wrench)

Damn you’re full of pep
Pesky teenage energy
Hah—point in line! (Wheeze)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Только дышать (Prana)

Just breathe…
This universal panacea
Cools my temper
Rallies my banked fire
Balances my moods

Ragged inbreath
Stable exhalation
     Stitch together
Body and mind
Hand and blade

Currents and subcurrents swirl and surge
Unclog knotted channels
Sweep out random, tangled thoughts
Open conduits of
Grace and concentration

Steadied by this insubstantial flow
     Wrist firms
     Gaze settles
     Heart calms
     Ego fades

Antagonists interlaced
In a dance of distance
This shared breath, molecular exchange
Our only intimate connection
Interweaving thoughts and aspirations

Inbreath, outbreath, inbreath
In between, the pause that brings time to a halt
Hollow to the core
Enveloping the world

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Night's Work

Drive home late, traffic lights on blink
Beckoning me through abandoned intersections
As if the road exists solely for me
(An open invitation for excessive speed)
Hot damp breeze dipping through the open roof
All my restless energy dispersed in sweat and laughter
Companionship and competition
The ego lulled by adrenaline, exhaustion
A touch of satisfaction
Memories of one well-balanced act
Taking of the proper moment
Arm and purpose firm, focused gaze
A joyous lunge with not one ounce held back

And now, for a few hours of the night, I have peace

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Joy is Simple

Joy is simple
     A moment of unconscious grace
     A flash of humor
     Silent companionship
     A brief glimpse of perfection

Радость проста
     Момент не оссозноного изящества
     Вспышка юмора
     Тихие товарищеские отношения
     Краткий проблеск совершенствования

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Variable Speed

One beat of fencing time
A maddeningly inconsistent measure
Determined by my pace
My pattern (and, perhaps, the pulsing of my heart)

Time shifts, dilates and drags
Compared to outer worlds
Here, within the lines of battle
Speed is relative

In large part we are warring for
Control of meter
Your vivacious marches flustering my blade
Raising my pulse, threatening to wear me out

I struggle to regain control
Regulate the terms of the engagement
Deploy my leisured actions to
Lull your response, entrain your speed

My coiled spring of energy unwinds
Marking the seconds, pressure building up inside
My hairspring trigger quivers on the brink
Explodes, collapsing distance, stops the clock

In the eddy formed by my disruption of
Time’s stream
I pause and focus, breath, relax
Reset my inner metronome

And we resume the tempo of our dance

Friday, May 22, 2009

Черная карта

I love to watch my coach in competition
(well, love and dread
Sometimes it’s both in equal measure)
After I bomb out
I find his pod and settle in to watch the
Opera, drama, Grand Guignol
Braiding my damp hair while
Waiting for the curtain’s rise

The first DEs are prelude
Overture, a preface to the show
Simple touches,
Economy of effort
Humor, joy, exhilaration
Shining through his actions
Very little hint of what’s to come

Climbing up the ladder
Always, there’s a point where
Things get tight
Storm clouds rumble in the wings
Foreshadowing the tumult that’s to come
Disturbing echoes of the past

Cue the tactically timed delays
To wipe the face
Adjust the mask
Straighten the blade…repeatedly
The ref would never let me get away with this
Somehow, he pulls it off, if only just

At last, the crunch
The score is close, the calls perhaps a little warped
And (hold on tight) the tempest breaks
The air is ionized with his intensity
Every atom vibrates, close to nuclear implosion
--Stomping back and forth
--Jamming his weapon’s tip into the floor
--“Requests” for explanation (with thinly veiled contempt
And indignation)

He’s awesome in his lack of inhibition
Truly a force of nature
(A fecund nature that brings hail, earthquake, wildfire, flood
And similar disasters
Oblivious to human cost)

Spectators shift and murmur
Distressed by this uncouth deviation from the script
Of civilized convention
His opponent’s contingent (teammates, relatives)
Cluck and disapprove
Try to parse his Slavic exclamations
Comment loudly for the ref to overhear
A harpy chorus chanting from the sides

He takes it to the edge
And frequently beyond
The bout becomes a 3-way contest
Coach, opponent, referee
A triangle of politics, emotion and (oh, right) athletic skill

It’s then, when tension ratchets to the max
I fix my gaze on the ref’s hand
Watch its every twitch and drift
In the direction of her
Blazer pocket
I hold my breath
Alert anticipation
Will the cards stay safely tucked
Inside, if not, which color will emerge?

But ready to skedaddle, fast
If things go wrong--
Not losing, necessarily
A clean touch
A clever act
All good enough, and worthy of respect
But if the timing’s off, a call that deviates from his conviction of
The proper application of the rules then
Watch out
Rage formerly contained within the strip
Bursts its bounds
Becomes a solar flare
That singes anything within its orbit

Now is a golden time to be elsewhere
Preferably innocent of how the bout played out
Who me? I was changing in the locker. What did I miss?

Monday, May 18, 2009


It’s an addiction
I admit
To what…well, that’s a harder question

As Skinner boxes go, it would seem
Immensely inefficient
Random reinforcement
Few and far between
Occasional touches, sporadic runs of competence
A transitory flush of pride

Clearly I need only minor treats to fuel
This stubborn dedication
This (more than) slight imbalance
   - adrenaline
   - ambition
   - a little bit of pain
Enough frustration to make me hunger for another chance

This sport, this hobby, pastime, entertainment (!)
Pushes all my buttons
Taps my fundamental traits
Conviction that perfection can be reached, the only cost
Relentless dedication
A minor loosening of sanity
Nothing too extreme

Deep down, I’m wired to believe
That me, this I
Is able to succeed at anything I try
Despite the massive evidence that contradicts
And so I come back time and time again
Impelled by evolutionary forces to return
And face my limitations

Deep down, I secretly suspect that if
A miracle occurred and
Grace and speed, precision, clever strategy
Descended on my blade, settled in my limbs, that if
I suddenly swept all before me
Small, fierce, clever, brave
This laser focus on my goal would blur, diffuse
And I would be released
Cage sprung, trial ended
Experiment complete

Failing that, about all I can hope for is
A balance of more treats than shocks in this research
On training of the soul
Excuse me while I push this lever one more time…

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vidya and Avidya

I see and do not see
     Your actions
Name them, sure, place neatly in taxonomies but
     Incapable of parsing what they mean

I know and do not know
     How to respond
Theory springs quite readily to mind…
     Half a beat too late

I think and do not think
     Not thinking is the best—
Actions flow unburdened by the mind
     More commonly, my bossy thoughts intrude

I am swept up in flow then pulled up short
     Caught upon my ego, snagged by doubts
Thoughts of self, second-guessing
     Searching for a way to dive back

I flip between these alternative states
     Cycling through unstable combinations
Seeking balance, settled orbit
     Vision, wisdom, spontaneity
Immersion in the now

But that is an illusion, yes?
     Stability’s stagnation by another name
These oscillations generate the power driving me through life
     And if they cease, then what? Disintegration, I suspect

Not that I’m likely to find out…

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Convex Lens

I face each lesson with
A certain trepidation
Take my stance en guard,
Gingerly probe and gauge the evening’s mood

Sometimes your temper is inclined
To mockery
In word
In gesture
Wicked imitation
That spot-on nails my faults
Its funny, true and
(just a little bit) unkind

And sometimes too intense.
Are you frustrated at
The world
Me embodying the world
Or, perhaps, yourself
Your unforgiven flaws?

So thank you for the snapshot, feedback, accurate reflection
(however painful to observe)
But maybe, just a little bit, relax
Have patience with
My tardy comprehension
I’ll work at being playful, patient and persistent
I hope the mirror works both ways
And you absorb my lesson

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Remedial Training

When I was 10 I got beat up

A lot

When you say “trust your body”
I’m not sure that it’s earned that trust
It was weak then
I fear it’s still weak now

It weeps at inconvenient moments
     Leaking from the seams
Lashes out in rage
     When calm would be the wiser course
Lusts at awkward times
     And in the wrong direction

You call these reactions
     Phenomena of mind
I feel quite clearly they arise from blood and bone
     Visceral machinations

Your body, whipcord thin
     Resilient yet unyielding
Has carried you through revolution
     Worlds turned upside down
Across the sea
     Bushwhacking a new life

Mine never faced such challenges and so remains
    Squishy, and unformed
Without the reflex of survival

But please, try, if you can, to teach me trust
And I will hope my instincts prove correct….

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Form Follows Function

Lunge 1,000 times
     Thigh bulges, straining at my knicker seams
Recover just as many times
     Calf solidifies, a coiled spring
Extend and hit the target—thus, and pause, again, and pause, again
     Slowly sculpt the shoulder, bicep, wrist
Swell my lungs with deep and steady breath
     Deepening my chest
Concentrate on one square inch upon your breast, unwavering attention
     Reroute the neural patterns of my brain
In each encounter, apply what you have taught
     Cultivate my patience, humor, equanimity

I throw myself, with trust, into this art
Allowing it to change me from the inside o

Monday, April 20, 2009


It must drive you nuts
How difficult it is to
Smooth my wrinkled acts
Stiffen my wrist
Straighten out my head

All your wisdom, skill
And cunning bottlenecked by
My impatient mind
Irrational fears
Pride and temperament

Fencing for yourself
Failure or success, your fate
Lies in your control
One step away
Well within your grasp

By choice or circumstance, instead you
Coax performance from my heart
Catechize my hand
Galvanize my mind
Or, at least, you try

Большое спасибо
And remember,
If at first you don’t succeed…

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wabi Sabi

My favorite weapon kinks, a little bit, mid-blade
     Nicked guard
     Ragged glove
     Dinged mask
Lopsided muscles swell, shaped by asymmetric use
     Calloused feet
     Torn nails
     Scarred wrist
A nervous tick mars my attack—disengage from 4 to 6 and back
     Loose wrist
     Hitched arm
     Crouching stance

Taken altogether
These flaws
Integrate and form
A balanced whole

The beauty of imperfection

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Viraga (Non-attachment)

I lost my father’s wedding ring somewhere
A massive chunk of gold
Perched upon my thumb
It slipped its bounds and fled

The loss left me surprisingly unmoved
And that in turn has given me
A subtle glimpse of hope
That maybe I progress

If I can shed in increments
Trappings of my past
Objects of emotion
Maybe I can die a little bit each day

And, dying into life
Emerge reborn

Monday, April 6, 2009

Categories of Action, 4 of 4: Offense

When the moment comes
     Pull the trigger
     Light the fuse
     Hit the gas
     Throw the switch
When you go, you go

No extra disengage
No last minute tweaks to distance, angle, phrase

Stop fardling around and

Categories of Action, 3 of 4: Defense

See Waiting Game 

Categories of Action, 2 of 4: Preparation

My footwork rakes the ground
Readying the earth
Cultivating space that feeds
My strategy, nudging it to bloom

The most perfect tactic
Executed out of context
Fails, of course
There is no proper act in isolation

This bout becomes a pas de deux
In which I lead you to
Expect exactly what
I will not do

I lure you to a distance and a pace
That lends me the advantage
Complements my strengths
Suits me to a tee

This dance is worth each single precious second
Of 180—
All I have, since in the end
One touch is all I need

Friday, April 3, 2009

Categories of Action, 1 of 4: Feint

Manipulation of your game
With my pretense
An earnest fib
(To be convincing, half-convinced myself)
Habituated to my threat
My deceptions deaden your response
Force you to reveal intent
And open you to simple, deadly acts
A little fencing humor!
Joke’s on you….

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Body scan, contusions:
• Right forearm—2 x 3”, coming up a pleasant grayish-blue
• Left inner elbow—1 x 2”, green/purple giving way to orange at the edges
• Right ankle—an angry blushing slash across the bone
• Right collarpoint—a deep red star, one quarter inch around (a perfect imprint of your point)
• Pubic bone (ow)—can’t see the color, don’t really want to look
• A minor constellation scattered cross my thigh (mapping parries made a touch too late.)

Inside—a huge and tender spot upon my ego, slowly fading hues of rage, frustration, loss

Which is cause and which effect?
Bruises first, it’s clear, correct?
Then pained emotions follow

I think not

Hypothesis: my insecurities well up
And, surfacing, attract the blade
Produce the welts
That manifest my inner strife
Blossoming from inside out, not outside in

If true, I only have to heal my soul
To stand upon the strip immaculate, untouched

Damn, that’s harder task by far than cleaning up my parry…

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Gentle violence
Unhurried speed
Patient action

A passion to succeed, indifference to results
Striving for perfection, embracing deepest flaws
Constancy of purpose, riding on the tide of no fixed self

The friction of these opposites
Fuels a furnace, forging liberation
Breath, mind, stillness, movement intertwined
Tempering a weapon flexible and strong

Offered in return, burnt at this altar:
Second-rate movies
Paperback delights
Lingering over dinner with a beer
Time stolen from a comfortable life

Embraced austerities
For what?
A modicum of wisdom
The recognition that a feeling is a feeling
Release from the recursive drama playing out with “I, me, mine”
Anchored in experience
Rewiring the brain
To be a touch less harsh
A bit more kind

And sometimes, rarely
Or, at least
A measure of content

It’s worth returning to this practice, time and time again

Friday, March 13, 2009


Surfacing from crevassed dreams, I snap awake
To crisp air, chilled feet,
A scrolling list of obligations patterning the surface of my mind
Stones upon the clear streambed, mirrored in its flow
My thoughts gather, tumble and propel me up and over
Swing my feet to meet the floor—they sink beneath the boards,
I lurch, flail, fall and
Slam! Snap awake
To crisp air, chilled feet

I recognize my last awakening a dream
An utterly convincing fake, a mocked up world
That I, with absolute conviction, took for real
But now I am awake,
I think…

Stars wheel overhead
Briefly, life makes sense. Dawn comes
Insight slips away

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Open Bouting
Tik tac, tik tac, tik tac, thwack
Shuffle shuffle shuffle shuffle shuffle shuffle thump
Schhhhhhhhhifff thwok
Tap, shuffle shuffle, tap, shuffle shuffle
Tap tap thwack

'Hup!' Thump, thwack
Humph, not awake
'Hup!' Thump, thwack
'Hup!' Thump, thwack
H’okay, pretty good!

Friday, March 6, 2009


The piste becomes a scale
At center, poised between “en guarde” and “fence”
A balance point
My opponent and I
Frozen in the moment when
All possibilities exist—offense, defense, feint and preparation
A place of ease and grace
Only pure awareness of what is
And what might be
A certain knowledge of what must be done

Of course we can’t leave well enough alone,
Passive in the prospect of an act,
Instead we slide the action forth or back
Time slurs
The moment shatters
Tumbles into instability

I push you to your line—
Perversely, I feel threatened
A wicked knot of fear expands
Stays my hand, delays my act
I know what should be done but cannot do
Paralyzed by seeing future states
Potential outcomes
Game, set, match

Pressed the other way—
I retreat, receding into history
Retracing histories of loss
Reliving how this has played out before
All too often ending with defeat

And so I battle towards the balance point
Where neither past nor future looms
Where possibilities expand
Where the bout is won, and lost
Both states being equally true
Until we look to see the outcome

Watch our foils—
Needles on a gauge of time and space and tension
Measuring potential in a span
Of 14 meters
Mirroring the world

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Telling Tales

To execute a real attack,
It must be hidden
Outnumbered and o’ershadowed by
Countless lies, fakes, teasing shadows
And facsimiles

Cast out playfully as
Lures and distractions
To bait, and draw you in

All the while knowing
In myself
Absolutely which is which:
The decoy and the true


Often I find I only fool myself
Finishing impaled upon your point
As you recognize my perjury for what it is
A feint—an unconvincing one at that

Give me second chance to spin this tale again
Look…over there!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Changing Shape

Over time
My rough edges have worn off
My angles rounded
Sharp corners, knocked against the world for fifty years,
Have softened and conformed

Like a limpet
Settled for all time in one specific place
Where my infant drift chanced to descend
My rocky home has molded to my shape
Cradling, constraining
Holding me in place
Settled and secure

This late developmental spurt
Has buggered that
As D’Arcy Thompson pointed out
The chance of growth proceeding
Uniform and constant over time
Is vanishingly small

My whole configuration shifts
Veering off in new directions
Altering proportions
Spiraling where once my linearity progressed
In clear and measured pace

Small wonder, then
That nothing seems to fit
Not people, places, livelihood or habits
My tailored niche
Uncomfortably tight

At this late stage of life
Can I regress,
Recapitulate an early state
Release my limpet grip
And float?
I know it's my own effort
Clutching at the earth
That holds me down

This is what I've read:
With any relaxation—tense the muscle ‘til it hurts,
Breath into resistence
And release…

Monday, February 9, 2009

Beyond Words

The smooth, elastic, living feel of dough
That signals it has been sufficiently massaged
And wants to rest and rise
The proper thump of nail against a finished loaf
The judgment that, no matter what instructions say,
These cookies need a half-cup more of flour,
A pinch more spice

I can’t explain these things in words
I know them as impressions gleaned from scent, touch, sound
I can only show you, time and time again
And hope you catch the subtle cues
That constellate this art

I know the same is true for you:
I push you to explain
“Good moment for attack”
How my intuition will discern the proper action
What it means to “trust my body”
The need to collapse the distance on defense
And when to feint

You can no more transplant
An understanding of my adversary’s mind
Than I can parse the smell that signals when the cake is done
You can only drill me, time and time again
And hope I catch the subtle cues
That constellate this art

A lifetime's not enough for mastery of one domain--of course I try for both!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Wisdom of Liars

Thoreau, de Beauvoir, Rajneesh, Castenada

Henry lived a dedicated life
Inspired thousands, millions, even
Bright-eyed, dewy idealists
Shed the world for cabins in the wood
At his example,
Seeking in themselves for self-reliance.
How much does it matter, then
That his prose conveniently omits
The weekly trek to mother’s house
For food and laundry?
Men’s independence ever rests
On women’s work

And women’s independence!
Rebellion from the social drudgery
Traditional provision of food, shelter and succor
Simone the pennon held aloft
To lead the charge.
To those who held her “mannish” she replied
“no, just a person.” Yow.
So, how much does it count
That Sartre trampled her affection
Dignity and pride
Left her bruised and battered in the dirt.
Her principles were sound
If not their application

This being so
Why should I dismiss the words of
Spiritual sages
Dragging feet of clay?
Or in the Bagwhan’s case
Ferried in a fleet of eighty Rolls
Symbols of his so-unworldly life.

And Carlos, what of to make of him?
Those pesky call slips
Giving him the lie
Dreaming in the stacks when
His thesis puts him in
Don Juan’s fierce tutelage.

Maybe earnest liars
Are God’s fools
Deceiving their disciples, and the world
While accidentally touching
Some great truth
Despite themselves

It’s worth considering
Buddha had it right: the lotus grows from mud

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chasing the Young Lions

They stretch and yawn,
All easy grace, unthinking pride
Fix me with their predatory gaze
And reaching out a paw
Swat me aside

It takes all I have
To make them stretch an extra inch
To make the touch
Or extend the conversation
To a second phrase

Flush with strength and health
They take for granted
Everything I gain by painful effort
Incremental work
Or sheer good fortune

Most of all it stings
That age and wisdom
Confer no advantage
Old in body I am yet an infant in
This sport of kings

Still, a hopeless optimist,
I bait the big cats
Teasing them to strike
Thinking if I marshal every scrap of
My small skill
It may, someday, suffice

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Kalyana Mitrata

In the clear lake of my mind
Your shadow
Cancels my reflection
Uncovers lucid depths
Momentary wisdom

Your fierce wit
empty boats
That strike my gunnel
Fray the rode that
Tethers me in place
Anchors my perception
Moored in certainty

Often what you give me
Is not what I want
But what I need
Unwelcome storms
That keep me from my sleep
Alert, awake

Growth is not comfort, it is
Knocking at the edges of the known world
Pushing boundaries
Venturing the blank space on the map
Daring dragons

In that quest it helps to have
A fellow traveler with infectious joy in life
The energy that leads to transformation
Who sees not what I am, but
What I will become
Partner in the act of self-creation
Spiritual friend

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mind Games

You know I will feint
I know you will parry
You foresee my disengage
Unless (ah hah!) I tarry

You know I know you know I
Will circle six and then riposte
My surprise—a four instead!
Unless I miss—and then I’m toast

My head is reeling from this game
of back-and-forth, observe, assessing
Far more quickly than I'd like
It devolves to second-guessing

Pick your poison, pick your cup
Offer me first choice in drinking
You are bound to win this game
I know my weakness—over-thinking!

If I could shut down my mind
Let my inner zombie drive
I could compete at this deception
See, react, evade, and thrive

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Pause

In a silent space
A universe of action
Waiting to unfold

Balanced in this gap
Perception and attention
See, without seeing
Know, without thought

Practice only this:
How to cultivate this state
In midst of battle

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Right of Way


The merest tap of blade
               A hint of hesitation
Unfolding of the arm
              A moment’s deviation
A stable point in line
              The slightest vacillation
A steadiness of mind
              A whiff of desperation
Beat, hold, take, act
             Waffle, hitch, counterattack

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Zen Negotiation

Just promise me, if
I give up all ambition
I will be perfect