This Smiling Heart - Poems by Michael Attie

This planet Earth,
lonely streets
late at night.

I want to meet someone
walking in this dream world.
What could we do?
Sufi heart to heart,
desert fathers embrace,
deep Zen gasho.
So what if we're at
Beverly and Fairfax at 2 A.M.

I am too lonely living alone
in this flower
that is always opening.
How'd I get into this life
of lonely midnight walks?

You don't know what can do it,
A whole apartment building,
or just a tree branch up close.
Suddenly your heart includes it all.
For a moment the moon is real,
made out of something you can touch,
Is part of a marbelized sky,
and holds together everything
in your heart.

You must tip-toe. The world is just a skin
stretched thin
over someone's love.
It has stretched itself
to make room
for you.

Oh God, I love middle of the night
quiet streets,
With Mockingbirds singing,
Where Jasmine is in
the air you breath,
Where the world has become real
and everything you meet
whispers 'it's me.'


I'm the lazy poet
Who needs to fall in love
In order to write anything.
It's a crazy world--
There's too much beauty
Or not enough.
Either way,
The pain seems inescapable.

Park benches make the best Zendo.
Far superior to black cushions and blank walls.
This is what the heart looks like.
There are people passing through,
flocks of pigeons,
Nannies with strollers,
old men sharing stories in the autumn air,
kids playing jump rope
and on their way to school,
Oak and Maple leaves raining on everyone.

I don't know if I want to die of happiness
Or sadness
Or just fade away.

I look up.
Everyone is gone.
Time to move on
To the next park.
Find my heart again.

    Moscow, Autumn '88



I patch my life
with pieces of poems
& scraps of light.

Every bird,
Each leaf
& blade of grass
Has its patch of light,
I'm a poor beggar
& don't ask for more.

I love the nearness of things,
In the stillness
Where light touches them
They tremble for God.



I try not to write 'heart' poems
but what can I do?
It's a balloon that wants to fill out
and press against things.
If you sit still
everything passes thru
this invisible heart.

And 'love',
we make our bed out of it.
On hands and knees
our only prayer,
'this heart has to fall in love.'

For twenty years--
always the same old poems.
What can I do?

No matter how far you walk,
in music, art, in your deepest heart,
what is questioned and answered?
The pain of separation,
the joy of union.

Some sing it, dance it, paint it.
I just have words
and this pain and joy.

I wouldn't say it,
but there is a heart
that is bigger than ours.
I'd renounce that word,
but the whole world is a heart,
And Oh God
it's warm and


Jacob, I love you.
I love listening to you wheeze in your sleep.
I love your crying. I'm sorry if I only laugh harder
as your entreatries to mama become more desperate.
I love the red blotches on your cheeks.
I love you in a faded blue jumper.
Jacob-I don't sleep at night, listening to you mumbling
to yourself in your own language.
Please don't learn our language-- Would that be the end
of good night kissey-time?
Jacob, I'll never be friends with anyone over two again.
Jacob, from whence did such sweetness come to blossom
among us? Jacob, I can do better Zazen following your breath than following mine.
And your little coughs also.
If you never get more teeth than those front four--
that's all right with me.
Jacob, for how many previous lifetimes
have you been taking smiling lessons?
Eyerolling, burping, squinting, pretending lessons?
Picking up kittens by one leg,
Beating chest, corner-hiding lessons?

Jacob, you're in the heart of any meditation
I could ever think of.
You turn me inside out
Till there's nothing left
Except God creating you
In my heart.
Jacob, I love you.


    'Do thoughts ever cease?'
            --for Gigi

When the heart is open
you won't mind the thoughts.
They'll have to follow along
and can't get too far away,
become stupid and useless
love thoughts


When the mind is still
what does the heart know--
only love.


When the heart opens
it becomes the heart
of the whole universe.


All the things of your life
are in love with each other,
just stay out of their way.


This is real,
This is love,
This is your very self.

The Love Beggars poems 1995-2005

For Homer and Rufus

my two darling terri-poo brothers.

A goof-poof

& a snug-rug.

Kisses on the run,

passionate, fast and furious

&  slow, sensual ones

that leave you begging for more.

Oh! Let me count the ways.

They’re the love team,

the friendship boys,

the neighborhood do-gooders.

Morning meditation’s perfect lapfull,

one on each knee.

Evening hug’s perfect fit,

heads on both shoulders,

soft bodies snuggled into armpits.

Tails-erect terriers

on parade.

Poodles on your team,

at your service.

The fun brigade-

always ready for more.

Chinese acrobatics, Sumo wrestlers,

Swahili dancers,Voodoo—

they’re in every kind of troop.

The old couples,

braiding and dressing their

Pomeranians and Yorkies.

Yes these two have done it to me,

premature dotage,

two or three decades

before my time.

I thought I still had other callings in this life,

but now I’ve settled into Mike’s maid service.

Post-shower lick-down time.

Dog food boycott mutiny.

Boredom guilt-tripping primas.

“I promise I’ll play with you more tomorrow.”


Sometimes they do the five commands

to make him feel good.

Teeth licking kiss preparation,

“Come here you.”

No more need for meditation timer,

when they stir from lap--

time to get up.

Now I understand why dog is god spelled backwards.

Just saying the word brings unlimited wonder and happiness.

The pitti-pitti boom boom boys.

Arunachala shaivite sadhupoopies.

Tyranis-toothed tu-tu wadis.

Wocky-socky tom-toms.

All-day the non-stop nonsense

naming patter keeps on coming.

Wam-wammy boom-boomys.

Ruf-hoofis poofis and the hom-pomer loner.

Little hanuman nummies.

Chewy hug-chuggers.

Nickety-nook wag-happies.

I’d like to stop it,

but the names just skirt the edges of

this happiness that won’t go away.

Doleful-eyeing beg-weggies.

Nose-posing hanky-wanks.

Chin-scratchable  chitter-chats.

I’ll go on like this growing old

happily they’ll lead me away muttering

twoforone hug-luggies.

Chest climbing rug-buggies.


Little trimmed Eugenia hedges

seemed pieces of music.

Walking slow,

eight notes, quarter notes.

Each had their moment

in my heart.

Suspicious lady

doesn’t understand

no harm poetry

I sit to write

on her curb.

Still watches

as I round the corner.


making bad name

in the neighborhood.


Masters Everywhere

Passed a forest ranger on the trail.

Perhaps I looked lost, she asked

“Any Questions?”

She was pretty

so I gave her my usual

smart ass response,

“Are time and space real?

Unity or diversity?”

She responded,

“What we love is real.”

Met my match

on Saddleback Lakes Trail.


Smile Crazy

--for Smileyface Duckdaughter

I know it’s sickeningly sweet

but what can I do?

These days

I only want to write

smiling poems.

People are all going someplace.

Somehow I’ve ended up on the sidelines

sitting around

watching the dance in every curve and shadow.

I’ve parked myself in the slow lane

and can’t just get up and go away.

I’ve got the smiling at strangers habit.

Sometimes I try to hide it so people won’t think

there’s some kind of drunken love-nut.

It is embarrassing

and gets me into trouble.

I might be called to account.

There are video cameras

in the trains, lobbies, parking lots.

I’ll be reported to central monitoring.

I’ve crossed the line—

an affront to testosterone,

most men would gladly kill me.

Women think that I want to screw them

and walk away.

I’m afraid it scares people

so I’m resigned

going through  life

a smiling sneak-peeker

taking my love notes on the sly.

Sometimes I pick on cheekbones,

noses or chins,

but mostly I like to sit

and watch the people who smile.

I wonder if they’re the ones who know

this universe is designed

to know

that smiling blissnothing

behind all things.


the only thing that just makes sense

is to let go of your marbles.

The only sane way—

you can’t help but

just go smile crazy.


The Love Beggars

--for Martha

The love beggars are coming to your neighborhood

with the love longing

that is never enough.

They are nowists and can’t wait one moment.

They are on the love walk

and will move in anywhere.

This life of excuses

to get out there

and touch the human heart.

You play the game in infinite guises

but only love is given and taken.

You just want excuses to say hello

and carry your list along.

‘Is this a maple or a sycamore?’

‘What! No beagle along on today’s walk.’

‘You look just like this guy I saw on TV.’

When the heart becomes light and transparent

the loneliness may be too painful.

To survive, you have to throw yourself away.

You are just hanging out

waiting for the next chance

to fall in love.

The joy is a lie,

there is only pain.

The pain is a lie,

there is only joy.

Anything in between

seems to have vanished.

People appear and disappear.

You have just enough time

to fall in love.


The Love Zoo

Valentine's Day,

morning tea at the

Farmers Market.

Some skywriter spreading

big hearts above L.A.

I'm scribbling poems on Darjeeling

tea bag packet.

The connection is always here,

just a question of finding people to celebrate it with.

Maybe I'm the fool,

and everyone is celebrating.

Why do I have to make things so explicit?

Groups of French or German tourists

wandering through the market,

cameras at ready,

eyeing the morning's regulars.

We're all in each other's zoo,

casing and sizing each other up;

"How can I fall in love?"

Word games--

How many words will get you

into someone's heart?

Find the shortest route.