29 posts from In the Company of Mystery


Blackberries were my breakfast, three seasons of the year.
I cd fill my hat in fifteen minutes flat.

When I fished for coins playing blues on the street
I cdn't fill my hat, but I filled my needs.

The realm of the homeless is a film noire world. 
Gathered over old formica in all-night diner living rooms,

reckoning rent by the cup, familiar with the faces
of strangers as much as with the tired jukebox tunes.

People changed their names w/ the seasons
like so many B movies on the theatre marquee.

I saw myself being ninety years old, wearing nothing
but a loincloth & a white mane reaching down to my ass

in a tarpaper shack on the edge of town,
where I'd sit on the porch teaching children bad habits.

I had a '65 Chevy, 22 foot step-van, tall enough to stand in
with boots & a hat on.  It was wider than my bed was long.

In the first two weeks the clutch & tranny both died.
I sold my car three times to pay it off.

It came to rest finally, under the Roosevelt bridge.
My van was known as the Rosy Hotel, I became a troll.


Loosely bonded, we were slipknot folk
making & shaping on the move.

Stepping between the cracks
was not the way to find us.

We called ourselves the Mobile Ghetto,
a nation of nomads, hidden in alleys.

A moving target is harder to find --
"We ain't campin', officer, we's hidin'."

We borrowed our ways from the Bedouin,
generosity in adversity, free-ranging pride.

Doorways were important in the old way.
"Enter freely, & abide my law"

We were fierce in the practice of our ways,
while holding humor & honor close as kin.

The nomad holds a basic distrust of ritual accouterment.
To live under sky, gods must be portable or all inclusive.

We prayed to Jampa, the dumpster god. You Jampa in,
you Jampa out.  We scryed the sidewalks for ground-scores.


Listen deep, listen well,
listen to the deep well song.

The blood in our veins can speak the tales
of those before us & those to come.

Listen deep, listen well,
the well will never run dry.

Listen softly, listen lovely,
to those who have seen & can tell.

I have lived in a lonely valley
where the only tune is the wind.


Travel the trail of feathers & turds,
tall enough to plow the sky.

The breakfast tree:  lone apple amid the rows of pine
feathers, fruit, morels, many different tracks & bones.

Evidence of some wilderness cafeteria,
the food chain must meet here regularly.

Under the tree she sd, "I think we have work to do together."
A simple statement to make anew the world.

Held on her lips, the word magic first rang true for me.
A gift left for the spirits in return for what is given.

Bluejay is trickster in the Northwest, courage here.
As trickster, I met my fears & courage in this valley.

Ecstasy & terror are neither synonyms or antonyms,
like Jack & Jill they go hand in hand uphill.

Swapping shamanic grins & glances we surfed the undertow,
trawling the unconscious for unseen ways of being.

We dove deep, as the old tale has it, for a mouthful of sand
to scatter on the waves, to form a place to stand.

Immense joy & laughter have often sparked new consciousness,
& yet, a man can only stand so much of wonder.


I managed to borrow a pot to piss in & a window
to throw it out of, but I still cdn't cover my ass.

In the Jordan river valley I came to rest,
carried by the current, to lie upon the delta.

Tired Zen hermit, holed up in the goatpen,
happy in the tin-roof shack rain-clatter of it all.

The way here is quiet, subtler than the Ghetto,
out making echoes in the twilight.

The calm before the storm is fragile,
easily broken by birdsong.

Synchronicity ran rampant in the early days
Dreams steeped in meaning, minor acts of prophesy


The Valley is where water meets & mingles, where it is drawn.
The source lies there as well, hidden, tangible below the soil.

Cauldron shaped by glaciers, brimming with willful Goddesses.
I came to know their ways as well as I'd known the sword.

Tending goats, turning & tilling & seeding the soil,
these are ways of the seasons, let nothing lay unused.

Grain grown fat & golden falls,
blown into fallow fields, the seeds sow themselves.

sibilant syllables speak of the snake.  Kundalini.
Water knows the sound.  I saw the Ourobouros in the swamps.

I slept at the hearth of poetry, courting Bridget with song.
I was slow to heal, quick to learn, soon to move along.


On Independence Day I took my leave, returning West
by train, half-drowned by my descent within the feminine.

If any myth had captured the face of Man Made Whole,
I figured Zeebie was the one who might have found it.

I was seeking the way of the scalpel, the healing blade,
a male way of being that would balance with the grail.

I needed to leap from crucible to flame, as Maker.
Attempt to absorb the old Zen Lunacy in some new way.

Too many times I'd been scorched by playing with the fire,
calling up my thunder with no target for the lightning.

Stepping off the platform, automatic snap back into streetwise,
city paranoia, hoping I had the strength to ride this horse.

The neighborhood I knew was gone, people on the Ave
either aimin' to intimidate, or comin' on scared.

In the interval since I had left, we both had changed.
He was harder, I was softer, neither yet less resilient.


The first night was spent in the spinning of his tale,
loss of love & a stripping of compassion from his core.

I had lived a hard winter of healing & hurt
but his hit him harder & left him far from whole.

We had played at being skeery, when we shared the streets
with kin, since then he'd built a deliberate bridge to terror.

He hadn't had an ear to listen since
long before the hurt of parting hit him.

Dangerous in the manner of a cornered animal,
tense coil of tendon straining to strike back.

His rage burned barely below the surface
& he had picked up the spear as predator.

I was scared both by & for him, knowing the cost
when a powerful heart stands dark in shadow

Two nights into my visit, I still hadn't got a word in.
Moving along the length of the Ave., in the stillness

our surroundings seemed somehow pregnant with pause,
a sinisterity supporting the sear of his rough whispers

As he had steered all conversation so he chose our course
of walking, bringing us obliquely to forest edge in the park.


"Awful dark in there.  Do we go in?" spoken through tight
clenched leer.  A challenge that I had no choice but meet.

We stopped at the top of a sharp ravine, steeply inclined.  Dark,
among the trees I cd see only his stance & stare, teeth & eyes.

He told again of the pain of betrayal, the hate of a heart torn,
how he had tapped a vein of evil deep within, & the lure it held.

He talked of stalking alleyways waiting for attack to come.
He desired the spilling of blood, uncaring if it was his or another's.

His was a sword that needed healing & left none behind,
forged on the anvil of cold anger in the twisting of his viscera.

He staged a test at the precipice, a confrontation of wills.
Casting friend as adversary, in a potential show of skill.

He questioned whether he cd come to the edge
of murder & back down, whether I wd stand in trust.

whether our courage, our faith was equal
to the blood bond of brotherhood between us

It was.  But only just.  I stood & would not back down to bloodlust.
For every thrust of his contention I parried with acceptance.

Hands were clasped in reaffirmation that not all is subject
to change.  Tested & found strong, our friendship remained.


Weary, we turned in when we reached the house
suspending further discourse for the next night.

Though we talked of him, it was my turn to speak
digging at the roots of his malady for the source.

As long as I'd known him, I'd seen he was in pain, seeking proof
that he could measure to the standard of the Passion Play.

I told him it was time to let the hurting die.  That the Way
of the Blade was not about wounding or killing,

rather, a honing of the self that precluded needless violence. 
I reminded him of words he'd often spoken in the past:

"It is the master who turns his back on a fight,
who knows his own strength & has nothing to prove".

I asked if he could not believe that he could be the master
& in bringing my cauldron to his blade, I found my own answers.

At dawn we smoked from his medicine pipe, offering to the four
directions.  He'd supplied crisis, I, calm, & both absorbed the lesson.

All the banter & chatter over merging blade & chalice fell away then.
Accuracy is in actions.  Hold to both ways & observe discretion.

John T. Unger poet

I'm best known as an artist and designer. Relaxing makes me tense, so I tend to put in a lot of hours on diverse projects.

Before becoming a visual artist, I spent 15 years as a poet. I studied poetry at Interlochen Arts Academy, Naropa, Stone Circle and on the streets. I performed my work for years at Stone Circle, solo shows, poetry readings, and at Lollapalooza in 1996.

I still write poems, but only if I can make them fit the constraints ofTwitter.

Mobile: 231.584.2710 (9 to 5 PST only) | Email me

Art IS my day job

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