my poetry

Au claire de la lune
flowing through my mind,
endless whirlpool spinning
of just a line or two.
Mon ami Pierrot, then opening
something next…
then pour ecrit un mot!
But which word that might be,
j’en sais pas, alas.
So much unknown whirling,
so very much to know,
but this incessant chanting
blocks my quiet time
when I could be reflecting and
ecrit a mot or deux.
Au Claire de la lune,
I am done with you
pour l’amour de Dieu!

—PJ Thompson


Distracted by inconsequence I rarely realized
I had a faithful partner dancing by my side,
step by step, move for move, in perfect harmony,
I’d catch his shadow fleeting in the corner
of my eye; sometimes viewed en pointe, graceful
as any swan, other times such frenzied moves
to bring St. Vitus down, pale and wan with spite.
My partner smiles but rarely, unless the mood
becomes macabre, but swaying always on my left,
he is my boon companion, Angel of peculiar mien,
neither good nor evil. Equal-treating all he meets,
he counts each living step, dancing counterpoint,
two-step, three-step, patient pacing on and on,
devoted to the life’s rhythms—until the dance is done.

—PJ Thompson

Who is this god beside me in the cool green
garden shadows, this moss maker, leaf breaker,
slow chipper of stones who pools the rain in the
niche places, causes the flowers to raise weary
heads to the sun; this gentle, quiet god of
tiny miracles and mundane wonders who
we take for granted as surely as we take
the breath in our lungs and at our lips?

Is it the same Power and Glory who causes
leaves to glisten in the sun and dance softly
on the air? Thundering and booming, the
poltergeists of the air know this god’s name
but do not reveal their secrets to the unworthy.
They merely light the way for the rain this god of
little things wears so well: earth sifter, root maker,
creeper through the new grass, safe and hidden.

—PJ Thompson


are the most important person in the world
no matter who, no matter where
matter more than anything.
And you, and you, and you.
are a world of dark and light,
of stories infinite and particular
that no one else can remember and tell.
see the light in the way only
can see it, and smell the fragrances
of times past, uniquely your own,
speaking your truth, hands flying before
the conjuring birds of storytime.
are everything to us, and we to
We need each other in countless ways.
We can’t afford to lose
can’t afford to lose us, each flower
picked before its time, a blossom
that will never grow again,
a world full and bursting that is only

—PJ Thompson

The Descent to Human

The soul descends, the Kabbalah says:
the Tree of Life has roots in Heaven
while the branches hang like a willow bends
trailing green into the torrent of living.
In growing down, the lessons flower,
experience buds on each new limb,
and with this learning, bud on bud,
we know what it is to be truly human.

The soul descends, the Kabbalah says.
It does not rise on angel’s wings
hoary with light and tipped with music,
but wallows below in the muck and the mire.
In human necessity, our virtue grows:
transcendence is claimed only at bedrock.
In being ourselves, both dark and light,
in humanity, and humility, we ascend again.

—PJ Thompson

Dead Man’s Zen

My dead friend wrote in the margin of my book:
“Nothing’s your fault, and you are responsible
for all of it. Maturity.”

The wolf stared at me and I got scared.
I cried, thinking my time was gone,
but time still ticked in my heart.
Time was not my problem.
What to do with time was my problem:
how to use it well, how to be used by it
and not mind so much.

The wolf still stares,
hungry, unapologetic, bluntly assessing
whether my tottering legs can outrun it.

But wolves aren’t hungry only for flesh.
Often it is for honesty:
sifting, weighing, natural selection.
They want authority and submission,
a leader to follow, or a pack to follow them,
arranged alphabetically.
They do not accept excuses,
or acquiesce with lies and self-delusion.
Their gleaming eyes know fraud,
and seek out weakness.
They hamstring the liars,
bring them to the ground
to meticulously devour pretensions.

Nothing’s your fault.
You are responsible for all of it.

Dead man’s in his Heaven,
I’m here with the wolves.
Be straight with yourself—
and get to work.

—PJ Thompson

The things you want most to say
about aging bodies
are not the things the world
wants to hear.
The world doesn’t want to hear
about aging bodies at all
they might catch it,
some existential communicable disease
to which they have carefully
built immunity.

They are never going to grow old
their karma doesn’t stink,
they have always thought positive
taken good care of themselves,
eaten all the right things,
exercised daily,
shunned all the things
they were supposed to have
(but only in the most positive way).

How could they possibly grow old
some evil-minded troll
it upon them?

How could they possibly grow old and
How could they possibly
How could they?
How could they


So much is lost, so much unknown.
You bear the fruit, you pet the dog,
you sit in silence, enthroned.
But unknown.

We parse together messages from air,
from goddesses who have come before,
but your secrets are yours alone.
And unknown.

Perched on the edge of the sea, your temple
reclaimed by water, and frail memory
washed away, into the rising foam.
You are unknown.

Yet your truths persist, in hearts and myth,
attributed elsewhere but living still.
Deep in the psyche and in the bone
You are still known.

—PJ Thompson

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