Some of us are refugees from the present moment

by Brad Parks

I have been studying the dharma and practicing meditation for nearly fifty years years, and have lived in Santa Barbara, California, for the last forty years where I recently retired from a career in social work. These poems were written earlier this year during a nine-day retreat with Linda Modaro.

If you’d like find out about the context for the poems’ creation please go to:


Ten thousand things …
but who’s counting?
Bird song disappears into thin air.
Eventually, so do we.
The earth beneath us spinning like a top;
How can we be still?
The sun shines but doesn’t care.
What a relief!


Expiration without inspiration is death:
He expired, She expired.
The next breath never comes.
We are gone from a lack of inspiration.

Inspiration without expiration courts madness:
inspire, inspire, inspire
and you may explode.
Or simply run out of breath.
Like milk and meat, every vision has its expiration date.
Use by Wednesday or risk the consequences:
It won’t pass the smell test.
It could be dangerous.

Our first breath draws us into life,
Our last breath releases us,
Who knows where?
In between, our breathing fills and empties us,
each in turn, like it or not.


Lost in thought:
even Google Maps can’t find me.
What direction am I heading
looking for my future in my past?
Unforgettable conversations with friends,
now fading echoes.
The path stretches out behind me
but dissolves in the dazzle of day.
My feet know the way.


We are older now.
At least we’re not getting any younger.
Or perhaps we are:
Feeling the joy of these teeter-tottery little steps:
Oh! Fell down!
Discovering what it is to grasp and to let go:
If I drop it, it breaks.
Struggling to put words out into the world:
Do you hear me?
Looking in the faces around us for
recognition, acknowledgement, love:

Look at me! Look at me!
I’m standing, I’m holding on, I’m talking, I’m alive!
We were there once.
Begin again.


Words are windows
and prisons.
Sunlight can stream in,
rich and golden,
and turn a chair into a throne.
Or it can hit the wall
and leave us cold and lonely
on a small metal cot.

The inextricable play
of revealing and concealing:
brothers in arms
sisters in struggle

The taste of fresh pineapple:
We delight in knowing and naming.
But we hide – just a little –
an indescribable sweetness.

You appear before me
And I, in my judge’s robes,
sentence you to life
within the confines of my imagination.
Once words fail me, though,
you’re free to go.
And, if you like, to take a seat
in that sunlit throne
by the window.


My snug little A-frame
perched at the top of a rocky hill,
like an eagle’s nest.

Am I a bird of prey?
A bird of prayer?
An anomalous hybrid of the two,
already extinct
or nearly so?

No, not a bird of prey.
Eagles don’t need eyeglasses.
And I’m fond of small mammals
but not for dinner.
Nor am I a bird of prayer.
To whom would I address my concerns?
My fellow creatures are already
kind enough.

More likely a hybrid
of things already conjoined:
A skittering lark
And its bright, invisible song.


Some of us are refugees
from the present moment.
It often felt like handcuffs.
In that country
My past was under arrest.
My future was facing a distasteful plea deal.
Fortunately a jury of my peers
had trouble reaching consensus:
They couldn’t remember the charges against me.
They watched the evidence
arise and pass away
without a trace.
Their silence in the jury room
was a disaster.
They had to let me go
as the law prescribed.
Their sympathetic joy
was my saving grace.