Diablo Canyon


The night is cool and the slight breeze carries the scent of dusty jasmine, it is a welcome relief from the hot days filled with sweat. It holds a promise and a secret.

The promise reveals itself in the mating flight of two eagles that call my name as if to give me cause to look towards the edge of the volcanic cliff they glide dangerously above.

As I glance upwards I see in the stone wall a carving I have become familiar with though it is something most people miss despite its size. It is Malice, Fear, it is the summoning of a guardian to keep those at a distance who have no business being close. This is Diablo Canyon. The carving is of el Diablo himself though I am certain the name it first carried is long lost.

When the railroad passed through here many years ago the Superintendent ordered the demolition of the carving. It frightened the workers. “A bad omen”, they would say, “We are not wanted here”.

They were right.

The railroad failed. The only remnants are the beds upon which the rails once lay and even those have nearly disappeared, swallowed by a landscape that has rejected civilization and its monuments.

This is a sacred place. A place shared by the Jacarilla and Mescalero Apache, and possibly the Anasazi, the “Evil Ones” who inhabited this area long before anyone else.

It is protected by skinwalkers, shape shifters who gave up their humanity in order to live as protectors and warriors, keepers of the secrets it hides.

I once managed to track a skinwalker to its den near here, a vile and dark place that reaked of carnage, purely by accident. Later I found the ring of stones on a butte close by where the rituals were performed to bring about the transformation.

His den was only two ravines away from my own makeshift den, a 1964 International Harvestor with a massive camper built on its extended frame.


I had the permission of the BLM officer, a kind and gracious man nearing retirement, to stay there in exchange for my useless efforts to return the area to a semblance of its natural state. More importantly, I had, I hoped dearly every night, struck the same bargain with the skinwalker.

Many times as I raked the broken glass and gathered the rusted metal, victims of gunfire and carelessnes, I felt his presence and once, while hiking the ravines, careful to steer clear of his den, I saw him in the thick brush beside me, a huge dark form like a wolf but the eyes that stared back at me were the eyes of a man. Or what used to be a man.

I stood still and repeated my vow with my arms out as I did every night, hoping to please or, at least, placate him. “I am here to help. If you do not want me here you need only tell me now and I will leave”.

His heavy breathing, rich with the smell of blood and age and warm on my skin he was so close, paused while I spoke. Then, in a blur of nearly soundless motion, he leapt off and in a second was gone.

I never saw him so clearly, or so surely, again, until this night.

The eagles again called my name as if to pull me from the trance I spent four days acquiring. I was on a vision quest and the vision had begun, but it was unlike any I’d ever experienced before.


Image: “Diablo Canyon” by Christopher Wieck

Sacrifice to the wind


There once was a man who wished to prove his love to his god, the god of wind.

He thought hard for many weeks. How could he, just a man, prove his worth to the mightiest of gods?

The wind doesn’t care if you eat or sleep. It doesn’t care if you cut wood or read books. Doesn’t care if you fast for weeks or pray for months or meditate for years

He sometimes even wished that his god was water. It would be easy to please the god of water, he could simply give up bathing.

But how could he show the wind that he was worthy?

Then it struck him one day as he watched a leaf, played with by his god as it fell to the ground, twist and turn. Lift and drop. Spin. Then finally touch down.

He could give up breathing!

It wouldn’t be easy but he convinced himself that he could do it. Surely the wind god would love him for sharing the limited wind with others. To not take the wind within and corrupt it. To not alter the breeze or the scents of the air with his own breath.

He practiced daily. At first he could hold his breath only seconds. Then minutes. With each day he could go longer and longer. But there was a problem, even though he got to the point where he could hold his breath for record breaking times there always came a point where darkness crept in and he passed out. When he awoke he would be panting. Gulping down the air like it were food.

He cried at the thought of the darkness invading his spirit. Possesing him. Taking him away from his god and making him consume even larger amounts than he normally would.

But he persisted.

Day after day he would hold his breath, pass out, then awaken and start over until, one day, finally, his persistence paid off.

He held his breath until the darkness tempted him with sleep but pushed it away.

He fought with the darkness for what seemed an eternity until, at the verge of giving up, a bright light dispersed the darkness.

He felt warmed by the light. He smiled and he cried. The darkness would not win.

As he moved into the light the first thing he noticed was that he felt the wind differently. Smelled it differently. He moved through it in a different way. And he was saddened by this and found himself wishing he had spent more time in the presence of his god while he had the chance. But the sadness gave way to a slow moving joy and soon the joy consumed him and he was no more.

A friend of the man’s who checked on him from time to time was there at the last moments and witnessed the smile on the man’s face emerge then, silently, fade.

With a deep sigh, he said a short prayer then turned and walked towards home. He felt comfort in the warm night breeze. As he thought of his friend, no longer able to enjoy the presence of the wind, he breathed deep. Deeper than he ever had before. He swung his arms as he walked so he could enjoy the wind even more. He blew at the leaves as they fell in an effort to keep them aloft longer and he sang songs as loudly as he could.

As he did these things a slow moving joy came over him and soon he was consumed by it as if becoming one with the wind and he was happy.



Image: “The offerings of Cain and Abel” by Duncan Walker




I’m not sure when I scribbled this poem on a loose sheaf of note paper (now in the “Final” file along with empty cans and banana peals as all illegible scribbles later clarified end) that suggests there was at one time more to it. Still, it stands on it’s own as a contemplative piece.


Through memory
Catching on the web of it
Hurtling through the thick of it

In to the past
Hanged on every word of it
Passing through the heart of it

By the act
Bleeding with the pain of it
Shooting past that part of it
To someplace better

I find
that stepping to the side
of the ongoing ride
to watch it rolling by
while I
frozen in a space
about the size of nothing
and staring
at the slowly melting something
leaving just the core
while the unreality of it all
falls away
just makes me want to smile



Image: “Orion” by Liu Yu

One person at a time



As published in Elephant Journal 8/5/17


I see a young woman punished by a mind that differs from my own pushing a shopping cart through the dregs of society.

The aisles of humanity staggered randomly like blockades of sheeple that spite or ignore or pretend she does not even exist.

She winds carefully through the labyrinth. A test of the gods. A test of her worthiness that she believes she failed long ago.

I wonder: What test? What god would be so cruel to allow this woman, who carries the spark of the divine itself within her breast, to live like this? Why threaten to extinguish the gift of that spark?

I step in front of this woman, only occasionally glancing behind, and part the cascade of ignorance like Moses in a sea of flesh so she can make her way to the hovel that is her home.

I see a man on a corner with a worn sign that says “will work for food” and I know, without a doubt, that he has neither worked nor eaten in far too long. I watch the constant flow of people pass by like a river of wealth that is just beyond his reach while he slowly dies from dehydration.

I wonder: Why should he work for what the planet gives freely? Why should he be reduced to begging for that which comes naturally?

I step into the closest convenience store, a place convenient only to those with means, and spend what little is left on my debit card to ensure that he will not go another day without that which is his right, and I bring it to him with one request—that if he knows another who has not eaten, he share it. He looks at me and offers a portion, and I gently refuse because I have a job.

I see an old man struggling to carry his meager supplies to his humble home. He staggers under the weight of the few small bags that are his sole source of sustenance for the next month. His “retirement” is barely enough to pay for the two rooms in an ancient building that could, at any time, be condemned and leave him homeless.

I cross the street, add my own bags to his, and carry them all to the crumbling facade which represents the dreams of his youth. Without a word, I leave all the bags, including my own, at his door and walk away in silence as he speaks the only word we shared in those six blocks, “Why?”

I wonder: Where did he work so hard that I can see the memories of his past etched deeply into his face? Why did the system he paid into for so long leave him with not so much as cab fare to transfer a true month’s worth of food? Why would my actions, which seem so natural to me, leave him questioning my motives?

When I return home, I see myself in the mirror: this man that proclaims love, who shares it freely with the hungry, who widens the aisle with his imposing figure and intimidates the sheeple with a glance so the meek can pass, who carries the bags for those who are too weak to carry them, and leaves them with more than they started with—where would he be if not for the love and care of the one person who first offered the very same compassion that he feels for others: his Self.

I see their faces in my reflection. I feel their pain, know their suffering, and, in fact, share it.

Where would I be? Exactly where I am now—with them.

I quietly acknowledge my gratitude to a universe that gave me the gift of this vision and know that I am home.

If you want to change the world, begin with yourself, and then carry that change into the world one person at a time.




Author: J.M. Greff
Image: Pixabay/quinntheislander
Editor: Travis May

i am the wind


Upon red shores
Of bloodlet hearts
The manifest Divine
In search of a single soul
Of the love promised all
Not gods in the heavens
But man
In the sands below
While I
the wind
Caress her


I am Yours



I love you
With every cell in my body
With every atom that makes up every cell
With the nucleus and nucleotides that make up those atoms
With the strange, quarks, and I forget what comes after that in my body

I love you with my soul,
that instrument of the Divine
on it’s own,
is but a note in the song of the Universe,
but which plays a melody so sweet,
so ethereal,
so in harmony with yours
that my body,
this vessel,
this prison,
howls with the venom of monsters only witnessed in movies,
for release and blessed union with you,
My Beloved,
to endlessly play
an ever evolving song

I long to taste you in my mouth
and when I do
your taste lingers like a chemical burn,
like frost bite,
like that fucking numbing you get when you push too hard,
when you extend yourself so far,
so much,
that the energy that normally flows
with ebbs and tides
like an infinite ocean within Our Being,
for certainly we are now
and always will be
a single entity with distinctly separate bodies,
evaporates and leaves us both
so nearly breathlessly spent
and soft
and willing
and hard
and passionate
and wanting for more.
Oh, please, more!

I want to lay you in the grass by the pond
and gaze in quiet contemplation
until my soul is satisfied
and my body aches
and admire your beauty
in the same way that I adore the songs
of the hundreds of birds,
the swallow and loon,
crow and robin,
the hawk,
that ever present watcher of my soul,
and the black bird that is it’s sworn enemy,
and I want to add our song to theirs.

I want to write great love songs and poems
that proclaim your poise
your strength
your beauty
even when you are ninety
because when you are ninety
you will be even more beautiful
for having spent your life
loving and being loved
until there are so many
that I could spend all day
every day
for a year
reading the poems
and playing the songs
and still have not gotten through them all.

I would carry you across a burning desert
to protect your delicate feet
I would call down a wind
and command a rain
to keep you cool
and I would build a home
from the sand
and mud
to keep you out of the sun
and we would live there forever
because it doesn’t matter where we live
as long as we are together.

I want to make your life better than you ever imagined
and in doing so
make my own life better
and thus create
an infinitely building loop of betterness
for us both
and I want it to overflow from us
and spill into the world
so that it becomes better.
I want us to be the example
that people point to and say
“I want us to be like them.”

I want us to grow old together
and hold your hand as you pass
because I promise
I won’t ever leave you alone
and after you have taken your last breath
I will join you,
in infinite grace for eternity.

I am yours



Image by Mariel Milan Cruz

As published in Elephant Journal

Author: J.M. Greff
Editor: Taia Butler
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron