A series of tunnels then
each an ingress, a mouth
  gaping, hungry, enticing
Into and through darkness
  through ignorance
and lost bearings

A stumble a slide
Did I mean to do this?
And into another ingress
  and then another deeper
  and darker still
and there will be
a very long time
  before the first
  egress, shedding
a recent blindness
at least to some extent

Oh, man, what was that darkness?
  Where have I been?
  What did I do?
  Who am I? Was I?

The original vista seemed tunnelless—
for there were glorious mountains
there were rippling fields
there were gurgling streams
  and whispering forests
all in a space that expanded
  before me
  inviting, inviting
and all I had to do
  to enter
  was to smile and
  set foot

Little did I know that
  space itself
  was the first tunnel

These are memories
  unearthed by concentration
rendered mysterious by words
but seeds of joy nonetheless
  for I can now
my way back home

Rowan Wolf
July 2018
© Wolfstuff

Bristlecone Questions

I asked the Bristlecone:
With a life as long as yours,
what lessons can you teach us?

I asked the Bristlecone:
With a breath as slow as yours,
what lessons can you teach us?

I asked the Bristlecone:
With an eye as clear as yours,
what lessons can you teach us?

I asked the Bristlecone:
With a view as vast as yours,
what lessons can you teach us?

I asked the Bristlecone:
With roots as deep as yours,
what lessons can you teach us?

I asked the Bristlecone:
With arms as strong as yours,
what lessons can you teach us?

I asked the Bristlecone:
With a heart as wise as yours,
what lessons can you teach us?

I asked the Bristlecone:
With a song as fair as yours,
what lessons can you teach us?

This he said: Let go.

Rowan Wolf
October 2016
Copyright © 2016 by Wolfstuff

Ignorance Engine

Not until the final blade of grass
  the final little creature
  the final snowflake
has safely reached the shore
  of Nirvana
will the universe expire

Ignorant of its ignorance
  the Earth labors on
as the ignorance engine
that keeps the universe
in place and breathing

For all beings elsewhere
even among stars
  you cannot see
from stars you cannot see
from stars we cannot see
are awake and are only
  waiting, waiting
  waiting, waiting
for us here on Earth
  to wake, too

Rowan Wolf
June 2018
Copyright © 2018 by Wolfstuff

I Merge with the Lives of Cells

I float on a warm current
  rising from feet to knees
  to diaphragm to lungs
  to throat and up through
head and brain and up
  and up
  and out
  into the air
and now I look down
  lovingly upon this
  wondrous event
this live and mysterious
  phenomenon that can
both walk and talk and think
  and dream
and so I merge
with the lives of cells

Stumbling, late one
  summer’s day
upon and triggering
  the blond little geyser
  of love
I reel a little, nay, a lot
  amazed at
the joy, nay, ecstasy of
  the occasion
and so I merge
with the lives of cells

A murmur at first but
  soon enough a chorus
  of a thousand thousand
all voicing the pain
urging all fibers on deck
And now I hear them
  loud and clear
and so I merge
with the lives of cells

It is an angry stillness
  an abrasive vacuum
  beneath my navel
and it sings
  humming, perhaps, at first
  but soon enough being
quite clear—I can make out
  the words now:
  feed me, feed me
it sings, this no longer
  stillness, anger
  boiling now
feed me, feed me
  or you will die
  it sings
and me, I believe it
and so I merge
with the lives of cells

It is very dark in here
  muscles care not
  for sunlight
though they care
  very much
for air, whispering
(sometimes threateningly)
to the lungs to pick up
  the pace will you
running short here
and me, I listen to this
and I take a deep breath
  and another
  deeper still
to answer and to
and so I merge
with the lives of cells

These internal, underground
  rivers, colorless beneath
the skin, pulsing, rushing
  with the engine of heart
screaming its directions and
transmitting its pressure
  with every beat
to rush them again from
not quite a standstill, but from
a softer journey
  and here comes pressure again
and the blood leaps and darts
down these internal, underground
  canyons to and through
liver and kidneys and muscle and
lungs and lungs and lungs to
  collect more and more air
for the muscles still yearn for
  sustenance to keep the slow
fire burning
I take another breath
  and another
and I pat the little
  heart-engine that could
on the back and it smiles
  at me as I approve
and so I merge
with the lives of cells

Gray and mushy
  not unlike porridge
and swimming in dark
  sea water
encased by strong
  cranium bone
a billion billion
  little egos
busy busy busy
ganging up on me
but I don’t know this
and instead I feel
what are they all about?
and what are they saying?
  so curious I have to know
and so I merge
with the lives of cells

I am thunder
  weather system
to these cells
Booming voice screaming
  this way and that
  this thing and that
Wordless words
  is how they feel my
thundering through the system
  of blood and muscle and
  tendon and fiber and chemistry
and now and then they ask me
  what do I really want?
  what do I hope to gain?
  one more breath?
  one more heartbeat?
  to what end?

Or that is what I think they ask
  but as I merge with
  the lives of cells
the better to hear them
I find myself utterly ignored
  by a body far too busy
  being body
  far too busy running
this whole operation
quite well on its own
  thank you

And so I wish it well
  in its endeavor
and begin to sing myself
  another song

Rowan Wolf
July 2018
Copyright © 2018 by Wolfstuff

Laugh Tracks

Bill enters left
finds paper on chair
picks it up

         giggle, giggle

puts it back

         wave of snicker
         guffaw, guffaw

does a double-take
picks it up again

         rustle, rustle
         guffaw, strangled

Nancy enters right

“How come you’re home so early”

“No real reason, just wanted to see you”
“Oh, that’ll be the day”

         brief roar like wind
         one guffaw, then another
         (this is really jolly stuff)

“But I mean it, honey”
“Oh, sure you do”

         titter, titter
         guffaw, guffaw

Fred enters right
looks at Bill and Nancy
makes Bob Hope grimace at camera

         roaring laughter
         storm faucet opened wide
         abruptly shut again

“What’ya doing home, Bill?”
“He just wanted to see me,” explains Nancy

         cackle, chuckle, guffaw, snicker, titter, giggle, snort
         all at once, like trees

“But he has nothing on,” says the child
“We know,” we say

Rowan Wolf
September 1996
© Wolfstuff

Labyrinth Night

Were it not for Venus
and a fractured moon
darkness would reign
as I scurry
six legs over
Kafkan roots
over mammoth trunks
tentacles testing testing
testing for deceptions
cunning and guile and
for this labyrinth

Were it not for Venus
and a fractured moon
these walls could not
be seen but see I do
I feel them too
and thanks Daedalus
for nothing
is that your Minotaur
comes panting

Were it not for Venus
and a fractured moon
he would not cast shadow
this beast they call
too large to do me harm
too dull
to even find me

Were it not for Venus
and a fractured moon
I would not have ventured
this escape
he ran away
for larger prey
I am no Theseus
to be sure
and neither am I
seven plus seven
and I wouldn’t even
taste good
that’s what I think

Six legs or eight
serve me well
in the pale light
of Venus
and the fractured moon
I hear they’re
shipping them in
from Athens
in the morning

Bon Appetite
bull headed man or
man headed bull tonight
the light’s not good
too hard to tell
Venus is waning
and the fractured
moon but a sliver
I must hurry
through the labyrinth

Rowan Wolf
April 1996
© Wolfstuff

Mr. Death

I’ve heard that Mr. Death
is in the neighborhood
making house calls

A nice fellow, says Bill
who’s on his second
and not even forty
Or so I’ve heard
  he adds

Me, at nearly twice his age
possibly beg to differ
  though what I’ve seen
  and heard
of this Gentleman has
  earned my respect and
  stirred my imagination

What could he possibly
want with me, though
heart and lungs still doing
  their work with zest and

Mind still vividly all over
  the place, a good sign that
So, what could he possibly?

Oh, he won’t knock on
  your door
predicts Bill

How’d you know
  I wonder

I don’t, he says
just a feeling

Well, so much for
  Bill’s feelings
for here’s the knock
  knock, knock
on my door

Should I answer?
Do I have a choice?

So, I do, answer
open the door wide

Not so menacing, after all
no scythe, no dark hood
no burning-coal eyes
just a charcoal
  bespoke two-piece suit
  polished shoes
  and a friendly grin under
  gray hair, blue eyes
(blue eyes?)
in the neighborhood
  selling death insurance
  he says

What’s death insurance?
  I ask
He doesn’t answer

Mr. Death? I wonder then
At your service, he says
  de-wondering me


Tell me, I ask
  I’ve been wondering
  do you hurt?

A widening grin:

  So happens, though
  I have a no-hurt policy
  —right here


How much, I wonder
  would that cost
  this no-pain insurance

Just a small fraction
  of your soul
  de-wondering me

I don’t think so
  I say

Oh, just a tiny
  tiny fraction
  he says
Cheap at twice
  the price

But my soul is infinite
  I say

Sure, he says
Whose isn’t?

But surely you realize
  I say
even the tiniest fraction
  of the infinite
  is also infinite

His grin not so
  grinny now
a little frowny

so, I say, if it’s all
  the same to you
  I think I’d rather hurt
when the time comes

You sure? he says
Positive, I say


Perhaps Bill
  would be interested
  I suggest

Rowan Wolf
June 2018
Copyright © 2018 by Wolfstuff

To Ireland

the words, like a falling,
like flakes, white, powdery
search in their falling
for the brilliant sigh

this urge is like an ocean
within—surging then still
then surging, then still

and I ache for beauty
I ache to share

to once
if only once

to Ireland

to lower myself into those
bygone waters
with eyes closed
dreaming of this one response
this one response
sometimes with a longing
sometimes with a lust
sometimes with a knowing
it may never be

the words, like currency
like things, like real
real things form again

aching for beauty
aching to share

to once
if only once

to Ireland

the faintest song
the merest whisper
of a song

sung by heart
spoken by soul
it shall survive

aching for beauty
aching to share

to once
if only once

to Ireland

Rowan Wolf
March 1996
© Wolfstuff

Letting Go

In this now I cease the darkness
In this now I am but light
In this now—on open wing
I am but word, a truth in flight

In this now I cease the darkness
In this now I am but will
In this now I am no earth
no star, no sky, and all is still

In this now I cease the darkness
In this now this lie I cease
Ceased, the darkness sighs and dies
and so I rise to my release

In this now there is no darkness
In this now the view is clear
Now and here: a view so true
that I let go and disappear

Rowan Wolf
Spring 2018
© Wolfstuff

Sand Fleas

 Walking along the beach
  one morning
  tide receding
leaving a high-way-wide
  band of sand between the
  steep rise of shore
  and the lap-lap-lapping
  of ocean

Unmindfully placing an
  unmindful foot
  among a colony of baby
  sand fleas…

(or they could conceivably
be springtails—an altogether
nicer critter—my eyesight is
not the sharpest these days)

…I set off an eruption of white
All catapulting away from
  killer boot
Some not too concerned
where they go or land
others with what might
  be a plan in mind

I stop, shocked almost
there are so many of them
all feverishly jumping still
  though I’m no longer

Then, danger apparently over
—and hitting the communal
they calm down and return to
what turns out to be a more
orderly, even joyful jumping
  about in the sunlit sand

Who are these people?
What do they live for?
What is joy to a sand flea?
  (or to a springtail?)
What is sorrow?
Who is God to a sand flea?
Who is a sand flea to God?
What gets a sand flea
  up in the morning?
And how do they know
  it’s time for bed?

I hope they are
those little acrobats
  of the micro-world
Sand fleas bite
Springtails don’t
I’m for springtails

Still, what do they live for
  these micro-people of
  moist earth and sand
What would a sand flea
  or a springtail
on his or her deathbed
consider a life well led?

What springtail deeds
  would bring the whole
  family to his bedside
to mourn the passing
  of such a patriarch?

I don’t know, and I cannot
  seem to fit my mind
  inside those clean
  little jumping bodies
to sense what they are
  all about

Now, as I back away
 I watch where
 I put my feet

Rowan Wolf
April 2018
Copyright © 2018 by Wolfstuff

I walked behind her

she was much
that moved
         why the leggings?
and feet

but all I wanted to do
was to say
you have such beautiful hair

Rowan Wolf
September 1996

I caught

I caught myself a cockroach
and scurried for a while
then someone stepped on me
or ate
and all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself an oak tree
and rustled for a while
the something needed building
and all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself an eagle
and soared it for a while
a long long while in fact
I soared
till all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself a tulip
and flowered for a while
then someone liked me
way too much
and all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself a howling wolf
and hunted for a while
but hunger hunted me as well
and all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself a terrorist
and terrored for a while
then one neat whole
between brown eyes
and all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself an undertaker
buried for a while
then too much dead
plain got to me
and all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself an angel
and harped away a while
but praise and sweetness
in excess
made all go very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself a Chevy truck
but could not find a heart
I pulled and pulled
to get back out
and all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself a peeping Tom
and voyeured for a while
but caught the drooling
in my throat
and all went very dark
and I forgot

I caught myself a baby boy
and grew it for a while
and now it’s grown
and writing down
all I have caught
lest I forget

Rowan Wolf
August 1996

I Bring Memory

What I bring is memory
vague in tear
vivid in passion
I hold each open year
apart and somewhat missing

Lofty first
and quite obnoxious
hatched, now young
not caring
exactly who was hurt
who was left with bitter wounds
as long as I could save me

Numb then
gasping grasping
air hope

He grew to this

But when I try to see the boy
I find only sweet confusion
when I try to see the man
I find dreams and dreams alone
when I try to see the soul
I find sleep and only sleep
when I try to see his God
I find him sleeping too

I simply had no idea
that every hurt was building
steps for me to fathom
ways I have been built

The room I remember
hovers in air
windows everywhere

I watch my pen
first poised on paper
then scratching little half-truths
little half-lies
in sighs I jot down
and I taste every word
like Charles like Arthur
like all that went before me
and lent me
precious credence
without them I’m nothing
with them I’m nothing
but I never choose to know

What did they do
between life and life
did they find me too awake?
Too alive?

For they put me
and my memories
in a sack
pain the weft
sex the warp
sleep the string
they tied it well
tossed it overboard
and back into the world
and left me here to drown

I see a boy
who dreamed he knew
and I’m amazed
that after all that
he stirs again

Still wondering

Rowan Wolf
August 1996
Copyright © 2018 by Wolfstuff

Gossamer Thoughts

A gossamer thought
a butterfly’s wing
a scale from a butterfly’s wing
stirs then rises
aloft then lost in air
this windy summer’s day

What was that I thought
what was that feeling
that fleeting glimpse
of some airy thing

that kissed and whispered
and smiled and fled

My clumsy fingers
memory’s goons
now reach and poke
and grasp and rip
the airy thought

And now there is
only sky

Rowan Wolf
August 1996
Copyright © 2018 by Wolfstuff

Für Bee

Ashen, that’s what he was
his face, his lips, his teeth
gravely tugging, chewing, frothing
if you can imagine that
  at the news

Ashen, that’s what I grew, too
watching his face, his lips, his teeth
gravely tugging, chewing, frothing
  at the news

Had I known,
  I would not have told him
Well, maybe I still would’ve
  but I would have been
  more circumspect

To be fair, she did warn me about that
“Don’t tell him,” she warned me
“He’ll not take it well.”

“But he ought to know,” I said
“The news is his to know.”

At which she shrugged a
  shrug and almost smiled

Bee had not been home for
  twelve years
And he never visited, though
  she lived only some miles

“She knows where I live,” was
  his stock reply

“Like father, like daughter,” is
what I said, the added,
  “Pride, pride, pride.”

He pretended no to hear,
  or he didn’t hear
for he was getting on
  in years

Then he said, to himself
  this time
“She knows where I live.”

What I had come to tell him
  was on the tip of
  my tongue then
but it never fell off

“Yes,” I said, instead,
“She knows where you live.”

Then I told him

Rowan Wolf
February 2018
© Wolfstuff

Five Days

In the distance looms fear as fog
as lulling of many tiny movements
he has so far to go, foot by foot

He brought an ax a song and a heart
for he was told of bridgeless rivers to cross
voiceless birds to bloom
and of her void

On the first day he walked with purpose
On the second he bridged the rapids
On the third he voiced the birds
On the fourth she stole the heart he carried
On the fifth the heart that carried him

Another vain boy, she thought
And she sat down, sadder than before

Sadder still for fresh vessels
to cup her grief

Rowan Wolf
February 1996
© Wolfstuff

Ever Apart

Seems to me
that summer
left him early

He came to play
but sadly
missed his cue

His stilted dreams
on old and fragile
never quite true

Say, how deep can
scattered visions

when passion
with a badly
ruptured heart

drowns again
in warm pretentious
ever apart

Rowan Wolf
May 1993/2018
© Wolfstuff


He scurries, rounding corners, looking back
breathing hard though quietly
feeling again the hard-won key in his grip
He’s beat the jailor, and the jailor’s plan
and knows the next door is the last

Stealthily, he hurries for the wall and its door
looking around at every turn, starting at every noise
He found the key by intuition and knows it will fit the lock
He rushes the final distance to the gate and opens it

The night is still, the stars tender and friendly
He quietly, quickly, closes the gate, re-locks it
lest it be discovered opened
He sets out over the plain for the distant mountains

From on high the jail looks small
jailed within the larger jail of the plain
jailed in turn within the larger mountain jail
jailed in turn continentally
jailed in turn within the planetary jail which suffers its long
incarceration in the jail of the solar system
jailed in turn by the shackles of galaxy
jailed in turn by the distance of universe
jailed in turn by the breath of imagination

And the higher your rise
the larger the maze
and the quiet viewer sheds a tear
for a freedom so fleeting

Ulf Wolf
March 1993
© Wolfstuff

Benevolent Cows

These days,
little pains come and go
  though sometimes
  they don’t go
but linger, stand around
clearing little throats
  to get my attention,
  and as if to say:

“We have something
very important to
remind you of.”

So, I put aside my thoughts
and crumple feelings
  and hopes
  and dreams
  and intentions
  and other distractions
  into brittle little balls
  that I toss
  behind me
  over my shoulder
and so, now I attend to them
  as if to say:

“What’s so important
it couldn’t wait?”

There is some more
  clearing of little throats
but mum’s apparently
  the new word
  for nothing is said
and I am most likely
considered sufficiently
  by throat-clearings alone

Sufficiently reminded of

Must be, since some of
  these little pains
  cast a last glance
  in my direction
  to then leave
Others, though
perhaps not so easily fooled
  remain, by now
  comfortably settled
  in a knee
  in a shoulder
  in a wrist
as a constant reminder

That’s their job
  they say

(though nothing is
constant or permanent
they also say)

That’s what I hear
as much of it
  as I can
  make out


Summer fields
  and childhood skies
  arise and bring
a small nation of cows
supposedly benevolent
though I am weary of
  their intentions
  for isn’t that
  sidelong glance
  baleful, as cows go?

For the most part, though
they are content enough
and the most content
amongst content cows
are those who lick the
  huge salt cubes
  placed here and there
  in the sometimes green
sometimes yellow grass
(four in this field—all close
to paths and roads and that
thin electrical wire that hums
if you really listen and makes
the best possible fence to
keep in those who don’t like
little shocks, cows, and keep
out those who don’t like
little shocks, mes)
sculpting salty landscapes
  into the flat topside:
little valleys little peaks
rising proudly until the next
  rough tongue
licks it down to size and then
  to death
and she blinks and licks and
  is a picture of sheer
  this cow, quite benevolent
licking away down
  valleys and peaks
  topography of pleasure

They (the cows) are very
adroit at avoiding their own
  shit patties
something my feet are not
  they will find them
  square on, whenever
they run bare through
unconsumed grass.
the patty crust is so hard
it hurts my feet before
they sink into cold goo
  Other times
the crust has barely formed
and my feet are warmed by
the fresh, steaming heart
of the patty

I swear they do this on purpose


It was in my twentieth year
  that I discovered
  the joy of sharing
Until then I only had two true friends:
One called pen, the other paper
  the only ones
  who never judged
  who just absorbed
  whatever I said
  who never thought
me crazy at all
(or at least never said so)
(to my face)

Then, one night
  I can still picture me
  leaning out a third floor
  window and telling her
(the girl I knew
down there on the path
looking up at me)
  to wait, I’d be right down

And here I took
  the plunge:
Here I spoke my
  mind just so, just the
  way it stacked up
  on its own
Surely a crazy mind
  I knew that
  Pen and Paper knew that
Still, to my surprise and
  much relief
she understood with
  what must have been
  her equally crazy mind
and then we’d laugh in
  happy lunacy

That sharing could feel
  so very, very good

But how did she also
what I had yet to say
what my mind had yet
  to disclose and
what I had yet
  to discover

She discovered it first

Sharing does not grow
  more intimate that this
She waltzed right in and
  made herself
right there among thoughts
  and feelings and the
  little pains that would not
  arrive for another fifty
  or so years
She nodded in agreement
as some remote and
  mysterious two
added itself to another
  remote and
  mysterious two
to make a brilliant

But I never saw “four”
  or said “four”
she’s the one who saw “four”
  and said “four”
before I could even see
  the two sets of
  mysterious twos


At one end of the summer field
(the one nearest the church)
stood a silo hungry for
  unconsumed remains
  of the summer field
  at the end
  of summer
that the benevolent cows should
  have something to eat during
  winter months
Small as silos go, but the cows
seemed happy enough through
  that winter, plenty to last
them well into April when the
braver cows made it out
to scrape up crisp
  grassy meals
  between patches of snow
and rock-solid shit patties

Summer, they knew (and
with it, the salt cubes) was
not far off: they can tell
these things, these cows
They are wonderous
  creatures, these cows
Though not necessarily


I saw a butcher kill a pig
  Butcher gun touching the
  pink, trusting forehead
and “wham” went the charge
  and the pig
  surprised I think
just sat down without
  folding any legs
  in any direction
straight down
  as on wet
  spaghetti legs
while the butcher
probed the long hole
drilled by that metal
by that metal death
  with a thin
  flexible cane
(like you’d use
for weaving)
  that he pushed
  farther and
  farther in
almost to the end:
that bullet had
  made it
  through more than
  a foot of surprised pig
through bone and brain
and into spine
the butcher
  an old hand at this
  knew his trade well

As thoroughly dead
  as a pig will ever be

A while later
  the whole pig
had been split
  into four
  pig bits

My mom bought
one of the two
(for Christmas ham
and bacon and other
such delicacies)
and brought it home
  with us
The butcher, she said
  would come later
  to cut him up further
our one quarter
  dead, trusting piggy
into cook-able and
  bake-able portions


No benevolent cows
watched this—they all
moved away from death
in any direction that would
carry them—they knew the
pig’s fate and had little
interest in sharing it

I did not notice this
  at the time
but I notice it now
  looking back

And here’s another
  little pain
clearing its throat

Ulf Wolf
January 2018
© Wolfstuff