“Such Phenomena” – New Poetry

Rare snow this day– normally too warm for such phenomena.
Blood flows at last from my darkened places,
auspices of Winter’s night. Long travels.
Cramps loosen. We are not yet to the Land of Spring,
and I am not too eager for light’s exhausting dominion.
We know we sleep deeper still, time slows to observe inwardly
the Soul’s guiding lantern.
Footprints mark a path outside my small burrow;
Who comes to visit me now from you, Darkened Woods,
who are most beautiful.
The Lord’s beasts may visit our dreaming
and will lead us unto snow’s contemplations,
and to the heart’s spark of candle’d delighting,
and to the Visitor who is the face of the good night
Whose footprints draw nearer now
to my aching door.

Gentle J. Pine

Further journaled thoughts today:

Being sensitive is no joke: it means hearing every different type of music your apartment neighbors are playing and therein hearing and feeling precisely every different personality in physical proximity closely around you. It means being painfully intolerant of the smallest insincerity or manipulative lie when it would be easier to not feel or care, or to conspire therewith. Fatigue and Depression hound these good hearts of the Sensitive; it is nothing to mock and everything to respect. A Soul Guide, a Holy Teacher, a Truth Teller, an Underworld Guide, a true Elder, a Mentor to the Heart: all these are the ones whose baseline hyper awareness is ultimately empowered into a rare gift to The World. They learn to concentrate their gift into deep power and truth, without being overwhelmed by the massive, life-giving intensity within.

Three Apples, This Child

“Three apples, this child,”

says the old woman beside me,

“Not a lot of twins these days,”

observes another: doppelgangers are

rare when nobody can see them.

Three apples, this child,

in the night woods of shadows and comfort, he follows and shapeshifts into a heart-piercing grown male,

she follows and finds him past the known world of her hairlessness

where the inhuman twins are carrying their beckoning apples.

they have fur and heat, too

they appear at the edge of the village,

sometimes with bundles of sweet red,

or green for a love potion

or yellow for the wooded sunrise winding into the east.

they arrive as the old shapeshifters,

beloved hidden in a cloak of marvelous danger

necessary, deeply and heralding

a happy death to all childhoods

song-speaking into warm beds in the great night, telling of futures past

the edge of the nursery

where for untrimmed beasts

at long last, the way is made open,

and the yearning halves of each become each,

these rightful pathways of good shadows,

full apples.

A Road Running Two Ways

It has been a while since I’ve collected my thoughts fro publication, here. I’ve been occupied with learning Japanese  (again) in long and mostly satisfying hours of study. I began learning Japanese as a child, and I have always wanted to finish the job. T and I are also looking to move, soon, and I am fixated on discarding as many unnecessary belongings as possible, a task that is at once intensely cleansing and liberating while also anxiety-producing. Among the things that have piled up lately are the stacks of journal entries in various notebooks that I have been sorting through. Here are some of these writings.

The senses are an ally. They lead us into the heart of praise and happiness. Stoicism only takes a human heart so far. After the medicine of moderating and dis-attaching from inflated emotion, it is a sweet renewal to return to the upwelling praise and astonishment at the life of the physical word.

You who bring all the stars into being, my relationship with you is changing. I feel better about it because I am not so lonely when I am not missing you so much. I am more comfortable, now, in the natural apathetic doubt of adulthood. But I do not vilify this natural distance we humans feel from you, sometimes. Because of my refusal to vilify such a naturally-occuring disinterest in constantly thinking about the divine, I feel less theistic than ever. This is peaceful in its own way. Still, I hope that the quiet between us will not last too long.

Through the human ability to form words comes rushing the ancient, pre-humanly infinite energy of creation. But because we are so limited in our articulate power and so endlessly restless in our search for the holy, I am coming to understand how a departure from such chasing of truth and intensity brings great relief to the sapiens mind. Is this a part of what the Zen Buddhists allude to?

Our species, they say, was parted in ancient days
85,000 years ago at a road running two ways
out of Africa; it was on a cliffside, imagine:
the boundless earth of beasts beyond humans,
a deep wilderness yet to know a first campfire:
we wore the same skin, then. You stood
on the edge of a dry place, my right cheek
facing north to where the earth opened up
into a cavernous trail beckoning my progeny
into a country unnamed, a foreigner’s skin.

My Latest Publications

I am pleased to announce that my poetry has been published in two literary journals, with another set to be published in the summer of 2018.

My poem, Continental Drift, has been published in the latest issue of Stonecoast Review Literary Arts Journal (Winter 2017, Issue No. 8).

Another one of my poems, Fine Print, has been published in Brickplight Issue 8.

Forthcoming in June of 2018 will be my poem, Teenager, published in Illuminations Literary Magazine at the College of Charleston.

“How Far Did You Get?” by Christopher Bursk

How Far Did You Get?

by Christopher Bursk


Often the first question other boys would hit a boy with,

as if the kid hadn’t gone out on a date but tried to swim the English channel,

and they knew he couldn’t cross such a distance without their help,

and this was their way of helping him.

“Go on, tell us exactly how far,” not knowing yet

how to understand what a boy did with a girl,

except by measurements: how long, how often,

the precise calculations of sex.

What was a kid to say to his buddies?

“It was like grabbing hold of a boat

and being pulled aboard after treading water for days.

I lay there like someone who’d been rescued,

looking up at the stars as if they’d been part

of the search party, too,

the breeze on my neck, the whole dark sky.”

Imagine a boy telling that to his friends.

It is more than they wish to know.


Source: The Mysterious Life of the Heart: Writing From The Sun.”

A Picture of Mohamed by Dr. Jordan B Peterson

written by Dr Jordan B Peterson on 14 Feb, 2017, in response to Canada’s M-103


Is this a picture of Mohamed?

Something woke me up at five thirty this morning.

Maybe it was my conscience. Maybe it was God.

Take your pick. I’ll go for conscience. In any case

this week Canada’s government is going to consider

an anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in parliament.

Before that happens, I have some things to say.


Moses was a murderer. Christ was a bastard.

And Mohammad? Mohammad was a…

Mohammad was a… Mohammad was a…

…holy man whose every word and action was correct.

I ask Muslims worldwide,

                                               Can I say anything else?

On the week Canada’s government is going to discuss

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in parliament

I ask Muslims worldwide,

                                               Can I say anything else?

I ask Muslims in the West,

                                               Can I say anything else?

I ask Muslims in Canada,

                                               Can I say anything else?

I ask Iqra Khalid,

sponsor of M-103 in Canada,

                                               Can I say anything else?


Is this a picture of Mohamed? Where do I cross the line?

This is a picture of Christ. This is a picture of Mo…

This is a picture of Mo…

This is a picture of Moses.


This is a picture of Mo…

This is a picture of Mo…

Is this a picture of Mohamed?

This might be a picture of Mohamed?

Did I cross the line?


When do I become Salman Rushdie? I’m a Westerner.

I am Salman Rushdie.         Iqra Khalid,

                                               are you Salman Rushdie?


When do I become the Danish cartoonist?

I’m a Westerner. I am a Danish cartoonist.

                                               Iqra Khalid,

                                               are you a Danish cartoonist?

When do I become

                                               Charlie Hebdo?

I’m a Westerner. I can criticize

so that things

                                               can improve.

So that we’re not trapped

                                               in the dead past.

So that we’re not trapped

               in the embrace

                               of the corpses

                                               of the past.

I am Charlie Hebdo.

                Iqra Khalid,

                               are you

                                               Charlie Hebdo?

Which side are you on?

Every Westerner is Salman Rushdie.

Every Westerner is a Danish cartoonist.

Every Westerner is Charlie Hebdo.

Who is Iqra Khalid?


When push comes to shove, as it will this week,

where is she going                to stand?


Muslims of the world, on the week of

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in Canada,

Muslims of the West, on the week of

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in Canada,

Muslims of Canada, on the week of

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in Canada,

Iqra Khalid of Canada, who sponsored the motion

after the murders in Quebec City,

on the week of

anti-Islamophobia motion M-103 in Canada,

                  Can I say:

                                This is a picture

                                              of the prophet



Because if I can’t, it’s not Islamophobia.

is This a picture of Mohamed?

is This a picture of Mohamed?


This poem has been transcribed from its original spoken-word video source. 


Jordan B Peterson “2017/02/14: A Picture of Mohamed”. Online video. YouTube. 14 Feb, 2017. Web. 20 Sep, 2017.

Image source: art by Bosch Fawstin, a former Muslim

The Aliveness of Places


Places are alive. Setting, not merely a dull backdrop, is a topic near to my heart as a writer and as one who recognizes herself as a natural human animal. (And make no mistake, “animal” ought to be a title of honor and pride.) Much of my professional background is in the outdoor education field of “deep nature connection” and the “re-wilding” movement of reconnecting people to our natural environments. It is an educational movement based in loving the aliveness of a world shared with other members of the kingdom of life on earth. This is my starting place for so much of what I feel and do professionally, and it continues to mature in me over the years while influencing my relationship to writing especially.

One of the most important lessons I learned early on in my own nature-based education (unlearning and relearning) is about “the wall of green”. That is the feeling of disconnect, bewilderment, ignorance and fear that many modern humans feel when confronted with a forest or any other natural environment not walled in with four corners and a thermostat set to 70 degrees all year long. I remember it being absolutely overwhelming at first, until, by a slow and gentle establishing of relationship, the “wall” of green disappeared, and I realized I knew the names, and more importantly the distinct personalities, of many of the “plant people” and “animal people” who before had all looked the same. Seeing the natural world in this new way, I was disturbed by my own ignorance. Now I knew the difference between a Western Redcedar, the famous Mother Tree and Tree of Life of the Pacific North-West which provides medicinal tea and valuable building materials, as compared to a Sitka Spruce, an equally beautiful tree whose needled branches taste like candied mint when covered in ice but whose same needles can be extremely painful to grab or step on indelicately! So many species became alive to me: my eyes were opened, and I knew I could never see the living land as merely a passive, mechanical, impersonal “setting” or “backdrop” which only existed as a pretty, disposable decoration for more ostensibly important (and arrogant) exclusively human drama.

This massive paradigm shift has affected me profoundly, and in this I cannot even approach writing itself as a disembodied subject. The aliveness of the land, a being with a relational, lovable, even conscious personality all her own, will always be an important character in the writing process, as it deserves to be. I suspect that this will continue to make a strong mark on my developing career as a writer and obviously influence which subjects feel attractive to spend my time writing about.


And neither is an experience in nature-based education all sweetness and light. Many adult initiates go through an intense cathartic inner turmoil, a “dark night of the soul”, where we come to peace with the unavoidably harsh, violent, and deadly aspects of nature which live in our own human psyches. We find we become more creative, more aware of these primal forces, and we find healthy outlets are honoring them. We may come to honor our newfound awareness of our own edgier natures by channeling physical aggression through more exercise or sports, taking responsibility for our meat-eating by learning the bloody work of how to harvest an animal body on a farm, or enjoying the gothic literary genre and contemplating our own limited lifespans. Indeed, all of these are places, too: states of being expressed in the pitch-black of a forest at night, the strangely soothing beauty of a graveyard, a broken-down part of town that glimmers with a mutinous danger. All all these, also, are nature. Having contact with the magic of places and the night-side of nature provides much creative juice to an ecologically-minded creative writer.


Now I live in a more urban area again, several years after that initial introduction to an indigenous mode of learning about Place. After several transformative years of living rurally surrounded by forests, it was at first a difficult transition “back” in many ways. Yet I chose to accept this new chapter with confidence that nature is still present in the cities, and the aliveness of the world around us comes to aid all of us, even in an urban setting. The movement of the city trees in the sunlight echoes the same effect of a woodland cathedral. We must love and rehabilitate even our urban environments in fiercely creative and regenerative ways, honoring them as not separate from the rest of the earth. We recognize their capability of hosting the same natural magic as the wild places, albeit with more urban flare. The spirit of Place is alive and magical, wherever it is.

Many wild animals have adapted to urban environments and bring their old magic to visit us. Crow, Fox, Coyote, Squirrel, Raccoon, Thrush, Jay, Bobcat, Lark, Butterfly and so many of the Insect Nation, occasionally Deer and even Eagle I know are near me, hiding just beyond or above the concrete sidewalks. There is a beautiful Bald Eagle who nests on a lamp post above highway 520 on the Seattle side facing Bellevue, signifying a threshold between the riparian marshes of the sea-sound and my species’ metal towers. This interconnected aliveness which calls out to us, involving our human-animal selves in their subtle web of life, cannot be disconnected from the writing of a writer who is aware of these relationships.


There is a poem that comes to mind, by Lisel Mueller, about not being able to go back to old ways after having experienced a new yet societally unrecognized way of being. The poem, called Monet Refuses the Operation, is about the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s refusal to have cataract surgery on his eyes so that he can see “correctly” again, because he valued what others called his “disability” of cataracts as a gift that allowed him to see all the world blending together in beauty, as his paintings revealed. Though I certainly don’t consider my re-wilding experience to be in any way a disability, the parallel holds symbolically in the line, “I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other…” There is a poem that comes to mind, by Lisel Mueller, about not being able to go back to old ways after having experienced a new yet societally unrecognized way of being. The poem, Monet Refuses the Operation, is about the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s refusal to have cataract surgery on his eyes so that he can see “correctly” again, because he valued what others called his “disability” of cataracts as a gift that allowed him to see all the world blending together in beauty, as his paintings revealed. Though I certainly don’t consider my re-wilding experience to be in any way a disability, the parallel holds symbolically in the line, “I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other…” I am happy to explain to people why setting is not just a lifeless thing in the background, but instead is a character as much a part of a story as an animal.
Below is a link to that poem. May it inspire us to see differently, unafraid to see the magic of setting, even in our own lives, with new eyes.

if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.



Source: Lisel Mueller, “Monet Refuses the Operation” from Second Language. © 1996 Lisel Mueller. Louisiana State University Press.

Poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/52577

The Art of Carrying Verse

When I first moved to San Francisco in January of 2010, I took nothing with me but a backpack and a satchel. I had given away my only computer, one of those old white-cased Macs. I wanted to be unburdened. I stayed at a youth shelter for a time where my only music came from my 2004 iPod, which was stolen. I didn’t miss it for long, because I carried with me a book of poems, songs and prayers that I hand-scribbled in black ink on soft, textured pages. At that time I was nineteen, nearly twenty years old and fighting one of the worst multi-year episodes of my lifelong depression. So I carried with me through that city of sea-fog and sunlit towers out of my league the words of poems to remember, and hymns and folk songs to sing. I memorized the verses I found and needed to carry, singing them to myself on the Muni, on BART, climbing those steep streets of fool’s gold to old churches past homeless encampments. Many a passersby seems to enjoy my spontaneous singing, it being so out of the usual in a modern American city. I sang to Golden Gate Park when, one day, I found a baby American Robin fallen out of its nest. I stayed a long time to see where it hopped to, trying to direct the distressed avian infant with my own winged motions to a place of safe haven. I hoped I’d find the same place for myself. To sing words by heart means you can call on their power whenever you need them, and they will assist you.

The old-school method of rote memorization of verse may, after all, not be so harsh if the pupil can but choose the words that call out to them. How many people today care to have tucked in their sternum the rhyming words of remembering love, the song your grandma sang when you were a child, a poem that grabs and squeezes your frozen heart ’til it warms and pulses again. When my grandparents were children in the 1930s, everyone knew by heart some songs and poems, and it was not unusual for young adults well into the 1950s to strike up a song together in chorus at a party, even unaccompanied by instrument, for the natural joy of it. I call this the lost art of carrying verse. Common people used to know poems and songs, the way people now know their favorite internet music channels. It is not to say that our excellent access to recorded music is a bad thing, but only that I wish we wouldn’t let it replace our own spontaneity at carrying and reciting verse from within us.

I first heard Anne Bradstreet’s famous poem on marital love, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” performed on audio recording by Robert Pinsky on his album of recorded poetry, Essential Pleasures. I had long been a lover of spoken poetry by then. I had never yet had an intimate partner at that time, and the poem spoke of a love and trust between spouses I hadn’t witnessed in my own never-even-married parents. Written sometime between 1641 and 1643, the poem, spoken passionately in the woman’s voice, moreover gives the lie to the stereotype of downcast and unfulfilled early European American woman. Being written by a woman, much less in the 17th century, it is an indispensable perspective in love poetry which too often makes the woman the thing to be looked upon, instead of the active agent who does the loving and desiring upon a man who receives her affections. Love poetry written by women does the dual medicine of amplifying women’s voices and experiences while allowing men to be loved themselves, for once. Finally, menfolk, take a break from always being the active agents. Lay back and let your women do some active loving!

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me ye women if you can.

I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.

Thy love is such I can no way repay;

The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.

Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,

That when we live no more we may live ever.

Bradsteet’s poem echoes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”) in tone, though it be twelve lines instead of fourteen. I already knew Sonnet 18 by heart, and I scooped up Bradstreet’s love sonnet like silver, memorizing it into my hopeful San Francisco hymnal. The author’s voice of joy rising to crescendo conveys this earthly love up to her prayers, putting the woman’s love that happens on earth squarely in the realm of that which is respected as sacred. Her comparison of this love’s greatness to the inconsequentiality of the world’s riches might make us mistake that she disdained this world. But she rather draws all earthly things into it; in the large way of the poet. Her love is by her husband reciprocated.

When I read it, I held this poem in my hands, there in those San Francisco streets, and then I held it in my memory, as a potion to find such love as this. Lonely, short-haired, I looked for this largeness of love and verse yet incorporeal to me in rose gardens owned by institutions, but which gave their floral splendor to me indiscriminately. I looked for this love already coming to live in my own life, recovering from my depression.

Bradstreet’s poem is anaphoric in nature. It is in the rare second person, addressing her Beloved with all the boldness and tenderness of a young lover even in her middle-aged marriage. Bradstreet’s poem connects all us women through time, ancestral wisdom, like the wisdom of carrying such words within us. It tells me, with much relief, that in every age before me there has been true marital love, not only in our ostensibly more enlightened time, but inherent to all eras of human life. Now I have found my beloved. My partner, T, is much worthy of this poem. If I hadn’t remembered it and carried it, would I have had such perspective in earlier years that finding him would be possible? Would I have had Bradsteet’s ancestral help in my recovery from depression? I take inspiration and reassurance of this deeply human experience written down by a woman cultural ancestor so many generations before me.

I no longer live in San Francisco. I left that city June of 2012, tired of the impossible cost of living and established societies difficult to break into and find real community. I went to attend an outdoor school in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, the greater region which I have now settled in, with T, my object of poetic affections. I still battle depression– it’s a condition I will always have, but I now know how to manage it a little better. I still have my book of verse, and I find new words to imprint in my memory, bright words of power to carry.