A. B. Clarke

A Blind Heart

by abclarke

One day a heart woke up and knew that it was blind. It was a strong heart, and disposed to solving problems. It worked hard, and eventually grew a pair of eyes. Then one day it woke up and knew it could not breathe. Again, harder now, it grew a pair of lungs. Then one day it woke up and knew it could not walk, redoubled its labors, and added legs. In turn it awoke to realize it could not hold, smell, taste, or defecate and with increasing effort solved the challenges ahead of it. And then one day the heart woke up, and died, exhausted.

One day a heart woke up and knew that it was blind. It was a smart heart, and disposed to cleverness. What did a heart need sight for — the eyes would do that. It could not breathe, and yet the air showed up. It could not walk, and yet it moved without injury. It could not defecate, and yet the waste vanished. All its needs were seen to. So it beat ten fewer times that day. Still the air came. Then one day it woke up and beat a hundred fewer times. Still the body moved. Then one day it woke up and beat a thousand fewer times. Still the arms touched, the nose smelt, the tongue tasted and the waste left. So it continued. And then one day the heart woke up, and died, alone.

One day a heart woke up and knew that it was blind.  It was a heart, and disposed to beating. It beat in thanks to the eyes. It could not breathe, and it beat in thanks to the lungs. It could not walk, hold, smell or taste and it beat in thanks to the legs, arms, nose and mouth. In turn, it even thanked the ass. And then one day the heart woke up, and thumped, in joy.

While supplies last

by abclarke

Those shoes. Stitching so fine.
That shirt. How it hangs.
This fruit. Juice dripping.
Limited time offer.

Parent’s love. Accepting without question.
Lover’s touch.  Safety in embrace.
Child’s laugh. Contagious smiling.
Limited time offer.

Romance rebuffed. Rejected and alone.
Broken body. Suffering without rest.
Warring cities. Sewers of blood.
Limited time offer.

Beach sunrise. So orange.
Mountain clouds. So white.
Rolling oceans. So blue.
Limited time offer.

That breath. Rising, falling.
That heartbeat. Thumping, thumping.
This instant. Thinking, feeling.
Limited time offer.

Act now.

– A. B. Clarke, Mar 2015

The Candle-Bearers

by abclarke

The man had not seen this door before, and would not have noted it but for the candle. The door’s face was as rugged as the rocky walls around it, but in the flickering candlelight, its straight jamb cast a faint shadow across itself. Praise be to the Almighty for giving this light. For without the candle, without it, the man’s tribe would still lumber in the dark. He had heard the stories from his father, and him from his father, and him from his. Of the time when there was naught but sound and touch, and his people huddled in the blackness on the stony floors, afraid, not seeking the way. Eating only of the waxen manna the Almighty buried in the walls, drinking from the water that trickled from the fibrous tendrils the Holy food grew from. Before the Creator spoke to his ancestors and told them to seek His way. Before each generation taught the next to dip the wick to aid the search. Before they saw they were naked and could clothe themselves by weaving the fibers. And now, with the candle, he had found this door, and wondered … was this the one?

As was accustomed, this night he’d left the rest in the last cavern he’d found. It was his job to take the candle and seek the Lord’s path through the tunnels and doors, ultimately to the promised place, but usually to the next grotto where they could replenish. It had fallen upon him to be the candle-bearer when his own father passed. Some nights, rare nights, others might accompany him. But usually not. The candle-bearer’s job is a lonely one. Only once the way is clear would others follow. Too many had gone through doors that led to ruin. Too many had stepped and fallen to their doom.

However, this door he felt certain about. Not because of what it was, but what it wasn’t. The other doors had been remarkable: carved reliefs that even touch could not fail to find; or dazzling rubies that flickered in response to the caresses of the flame; or impossible height that stretched all the way to the dark craggy roof. But this door was nothing, a part of the stone walls, barely even an opening. He had never seen its like. With a trepidation bordering on ecstasy he pushed through.

Lo, what a room! The door that was straight on one side, straight like every wall in every tunnel his people had ever wandered through, now curved into a room with no corners. In the center of the room sat a circle of water, the liquid stretching to within a few feet of where his sandaled feet seemed mortared to the ground. And, surrounded by the pool, was a small mound of ground, out of which grew a thing, a thing he had few words to describe. A brown cylinder, gnarled, raising up and then splitting into smaller and then smaller versions of itself. Each fork looking the same from a distance, but each tine unique when examined on its own. Finally at the ends of tines that did not fork rested sheets of green, below which hung the most beautiful red baubles. This alone would have have made him fall to his knees in praise. This alone would have made him thank the Almighty for giving him the candle that showed this beauty. This alone would make him prostrate before his Creator. Even had he not seen the roof.

But the roof … oh how the roof sparkled. The ceiling stretched to the infinite, and inlaid in it rested a panoply of glittering jewels, one larger than his fist, most no larger than the smallest ember on the smallest wick on the smallest candle. The smaller jewels clumped in whorls and swirls, too many to count. Some shone brighter and larger than others, making shapes if his mind’s eye drew the lines between them — a warrior, he thought, or a great belt. None outshone the largest — a pendulous disc than reflected the candlelight without a flicker. It made him question if the canopy itself provided the light, rather than his meager candle, so bright was the room. It was in wonder and awe at this musing that he forgot, for a moment, why and how the Almighty had chosen him to see this, to lead his people. But then he remembered his teaching, and knew the light from the candle he held tenderly in his hand must have brought this ceiling to life. Was it not known that it was so? Was it not prophesied through the ages? He dropped down, placed his head on the ground, and gave thanks as his father’s father’s father had taught.

Only upon raising his head did he notice across from him, equidistant, were two other similar doors. Through which had marched two men wearing robes such as his, holding what looked like candles such as his, who had clearly fallen to their knees such as him, and were looking at him incredulously. But for the color of the clothes each wore — a blue robe, a green robe and a red robe — they would be identical he thought, and laughed what magic this that the Almighty wrought. As quickly as he laughed, he hesitated. He had for countless nights searched, and never before met someone not of his kind. Each night he had felt his stomach tighten as he pushed alone down catacombs he’d not been before, or stepped through doors he’d opened for the first time. Yet this fear, seeing these men, was different. His hand reached to his belt and grasped his stone knife to give him comfort. Yet surely his Creator would not bring him here, to this place, to have his candle illuminate the world like this, if He meant him harm. With that thought he and the two men rose together and walked towards each other.

He did not remember which of them spoke first, but once the first greeting was uttered, each man’s hand slowly fell from their side to reach out in salutation. He asked their name, and they his, and soon their voices rose in conversation, as though they’d known each other longer than their own children. They marveled at each others’ names: Moshe, Mohammed, Peter; and the way the words rolled in unfamiliar ways across their tongues. Soon they shared the names of others in their groups, just to be astonished at the variety. And each gushed as to the beauty in the room and in turn praised Him — although again, the names ranged: Yahweh, Allah, God. Admittedly, he found the others’ names for Him disconcerting, but to avoid being inhospitable, he resolved not to correct them.

In time conversation turned to the candles they held, and here, as in their robes, he was surprised as much by the similarities as the differences. All were made from the wax that covered the manna, but of different shapes. One was taller and thinner than his, the other shorter but with a thicker wick. On the candles, they found much to talk about, as men are prone to deep conversation of their crafts. They discussed which shape burned longer, which burned hotter, and which held up best in the cool eddies that sometimes rushed through the hallways. They shared where they collected the soft delicacies, how their ancestors found the rocks on the ground that sparked when banged together, and how they learned to melt and collect the wax from their food. They shared the tricks they used to craft wicks from the hairy tendrils that bore their sustenance, how they kept the woven cords centered as they poured the warm liquid into their molds, and how to get the steadiest burn. He, and he knew the others, got lost in this — never once amongst his tribe had he found another who knew so much about the torches. He wished the night could go on forever.

Alas, then the conversation moved to which candle lit the roof that dazzled them so. It was obvious to him that it was his candle — had the room not come to life when he entered, and had the Creator not promised his people it would be so. Yet as he pressed this point, so did the others. He tried to reason with them. Yes, while he admitted the benefits a shorter candle could confer in some limited, limited, circumstances, surely it was self-evident that his taper shone the brightest and the best! As he pushed, each of the others pushed as hard, harder, to argue it was their light that brought forth the gemstones above. None of the others would move — they would not see reason. It was only by remembering that he held his candle in the service of his people, and his Creator, that he was able to refrain from shouting at their blasphemies.

At length someone suggested — it could have been him or one of the others, he could not recall so heated had the discussion become — that perhaps they should retire for the night, and resume the conversation tomorrow. All of them saw the wisdom in this, as their candles had begun to fade and they did not want to return to their people in the dark. They agreed to meet again the next day at the same time and resume their conference. With the thought of rest, everyone calmed, and they wished each other well in the day ahead.

He made his way back to the room of his people, found the mat he shared with his wife, next to his son, and put his head down. A strange and wonderful evening, it exhausted him, and he fell quickly to slumber. As he dreamt, he returned to the room, and walked from the door to the pool. With each step his foot pushed on the water, but did not sink, and he found he could easily move to the center of the room. His hands touched the gnarled structure in the middle, his fingers finding holds, and one arm after the other, one foot on top of the next, he began to climb. Soon he reached the top, and held in his hand one of the red jewels, which he brought to his nose. It smelled of sweetness, of life, of joy, of all things wonderful. It smelled of his wife. Of the feast they had on their wedding day. Of the feast they shared in their wedding bed. Of his son on the first day he held him. He touched this strange ball with his tongue, and a fire exploded in his mouth, compelling him to bite into the fruit. With each bite his heart stopped and raced at the same time, his skin tightened and relaxed, and his mind reached up, up, up towards the sparkles in the roof, further and further until he heard a voice addressing him: “Show the others my way,” the voice intoned, “so they may give thanks.”

He awoke renewed, and all through the chores he shared with his people during the day, before his nightly search began, he moved with a new lightness and purpose. He could not wait for the evening, when everyone else was down for the night, so he could take the candle and return to the room. There he would tell the other men of his dream, how he’d received word that his people’s way was The Way, and surely they would see the glory of the Almighty. He would convince each of them to extinguish their flames so he could show them the power of His light to illuminate the roof.

And if they would not listen, oh, if they would not listen, he would blow hard and make their flames die so they could understand the might, the power, and the righteousness of His way.

– A. B. Clarke, Feb 2015

Three Sunflowers

by abclarke

I shall live the short life, like the sunflower.
I shall grow tall in the spring chills, sway in the summer winds, and kneel come winter.
Before this life and after this life, this is not me.
This life is me.

I shall live the long life, like the memory of the sunflower.
The stroke of the artist’s brush. The recollections of lovers who idle in the field.
For an infinity of instants, this life is me.
This life is not me.

I shall live the eternal life, like the dirt.
The air that lifts the flower’s pollen. The worm that shits in the ground.
This life is never me.
This life is forever me.


by abclarke

Practice the humility to be present, serve others, and love myself;
Create beauty with, and through, others;
Seek to be wise and compassionate as I teach;
Note everything changes except change;
Laugh when I fail; Smile as I try again.

The Scientist

by abclarke

“I don’t know,” said the Scientist. “Sometimes I’m confident there is no God. Sometimes I’m confident God is everywhere. And sometimes, when I’m in my work, I’m convinced God is the collective memory of the universe, and at best we can only probabilistically approximate Him.”

“That’s true,” said the Philosopher.

“Which part?”

“Probably all of them.”


by abclarke

do {
    if I must work, work;
    if I must rest, rest;
    if I must eat, eat;
    if I must drink, drink;

    if I must play, play;
    if I must sing, sing;
    if I must dance, dance;
    if I must scream, scream;

    if I must laugh, laugh;
    if I must cry, cry;
    if I must mourn, mourn;
    if I must love, love;

    if I must lie, lie;
    if I must cheat, cheat;
    if I must fear, fear;
    if I must hate, love;

    if I must do, do;
    if I must not, don't;
    if I must be, be;
    if unsure, repeat;
} while (true);

The Truth Is Like A Pretty Girl

by abclarke

Tell it Slant

My friend Jeffrey read me a poem last night that I had never heard before. It’s from Emily Dickinson:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Hearing the poem was a nice recap to 2014, because I felt this poem encapsulates the hardest professional lesson I learned this year: The Truth must dazzle gradually, or every man, including the Truth Teller, be blind.

Read the rest of this entry »

An Inside Joke

by abclarke

Amongst the masters in the zendo there is an inside joke: There is no inside joke.

13 Dance Moves For Growing Old

by abclarke

  1. Go to homecoming. Stand still. Arms straight. Shoulder, ribs, spine flat. Gym wall. Sweat. Watch the others. Them. Watch them move. Yearn. But do not move. Do not move! Remember, the world might see you… you might do it wrong.
  2. Grow older. Go to prom. Hide in the crowd. Do not be noticed. Rock your body. Left. Right. Not too much. Not too much! Count the beat. One two. One two. Two. You’re doing it wrong. You’re doing it wrong! Leave early. Remember, the world is watching… they see what you’re doing.
  3. Grow older. Go to a party. Drink. Drink. Glance. Blue eyes. Shimmy closer. Shake your arms. High. Higher. You like big butts. You cannot lie. Bump her hips. Bump. Feel her bump. Bump. Can’t touch this. Touch her. Can’t touch this. Feel her touch. Drink. Laugh. Dance. Drink. Remember, who cares if the world is watching… you won’t remember tomorrow.
  4. Grow older. Go to a club. Glance. Brown eyes. Don’t think. Approach. Talk. Think. Stammer. Recover. Be confident. Confident. Take her hand. Lead her. Don’t think. Move her. Swing her. Spin her. Dip. Dive. Think. Think. Think… Think of future. Think of beat. Think of steps. And stumble. Stumble! Gah! Gah! Make excuse. Walk her home. Shake hands. Remember, the world is watching… and you cannot dance!
  5. Grow older. Wake up. Get in shower. Hear music. That song. The one you say you hate. Feel the water. On your lips. Lip-sync. Move your legs, your arms. Shake. Shake! Shimmy. Shimmy! Splash. Splash! Scream the words. Loud. LOUDER. LOUDER! Move your hips. Spin. Make the curtain sway. Slip. Fall. Cringe. Remember, no one is watching… no one need know.
  6. Grow older. Stand at the bus stop. See the wiry busker. Fedora on ground. Dollars in the felt. Guitar strumming. Fingers moving. Watch him bait the crowd. Dare the crowd. Smile. Watch your hands clap in time. Glance. Green eyes smiling, swaying. Listen to the music. Do not think. Green eyes. Do not notice your rythym. Green eyes. Do not notice your arms flowing, your legs kicking, your heart beating, your lungs screaming, your lips singing, your feet flying, the busker cheering, the horde howling. Green eyes. Do not contemplate your twists, your swings, your turns, your spins. Green eyes. Do not think as you put your hand out. Smile as she takes it. Dance. Dance. Remember, the world is watching… but she danced with you.
  7. Grow older. Go to church. Stand still. Arms straight. Shoulders, ribs, spine steady. Watch her walk. Slowly. See her smile. Green eyes down. Tears behind veil. Smile. Note her steps. One two. One two. One two. Tap fingers in time. Remember, the world is watching… and anything can be a dance.
  8. Grow older. Hear cries. Rub her back. Offer to get up. Your turn. Stumble to his room. Pick up boy. Rock. Rock. Wah. Wah. Itsy bitsy. Wah! Wah! Twinkle twinkle. WAH! WAH! Deep breath. Pause. And go: Twist. You like big butts. (He smiles.) Swing. You cannot lie. (He giggles.) Turn. Can’t touch this. (He murmurs.) Spin. Can’t touch … See her standing in the door. Laughing. Laugh with her. Don’t speak. Hold child between you. Dance. Dance. Remember, you made this world… this is your dance.
  9. Grow older. Watch together. See the bride and groom. First dance. Squeeze her hand. Lift your eyebrow. Look into the green. Don’t speak — conspire! Show your child how it’s done. Own the dance floor. Be at the bus stop. See the hat. Twist her. Swing her. Turn her. Spin her. Do not think. Dance. Dance. Hear the guests erupt. Only notice her. Remember, she is your world… you will dance with her forever.
  10. Grow older. Hold her hand. Beep. Beep. Squeeze it. Beep. Beep. Yearn to see green one more time. Beep. Beep. Know that you won’t. Beep. Beep. Feel your son’s hand on your shoulder. Beep. Beep. Try not to cry. No beep. No beep. Cry. Remember, the world dances… even when you don’t… even when she doesn’t.
  11. Stop growing. Stay home. Close curtains. Hear phone. Don’t answer. Hear knocks. Don’t open. No music. No music! Do not move. Do not move! Remember… no… don’t remember… don’t remember!
  12. Grow older. Hold the tiny hand. Compare young wrinkles to old. Feel her squeeze. Grasp. Look into her green eyes. Feel her father’s hand on your shoulder. Smile. Wish she was here. Wish she could see. But smile. Smile. Lift the child. Twist. Swing. Turn. Spin. Remember, the world has new dancers…dance!
  13. Grow older. Go to bus stop. Move slowly. Use the cane. Feel the sun. Watch the people. Watch them sway. Hear the music. Hear it. There is always music. HEAR IT! Sway. Like you did last year. Lean on cane. Twist. Swing. Turn. Spin. Smile. Remember: the world is dancing… you cannot do it wrong.

By A. B. Clarke


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