Thursday, November 6, 2014

After talking with the poets

What are the chances, even in a small town,
of meeting the only car that moves on the street
at 4:30 AM, at just the driveway it wants,
and it having to wait

for you to pass. And a block beyond,
to meet another solitary walker
coming down the stairs you’re going up,
passing so close your sleeves brush—

who would guess, even in a small town,
in this world how close we all really are ?


Robert Lax says attention is holy
and that’s why we all want it.

And why perhaps, when we attend
to the direction our own attention has turned,

we’ll likely find our way
to where we’ve wanted to be

all along—it’s its own light.


Trying too hard to sing tires the heart.
Just hum—it’s still song…


To speak of god
is not to speak
as something separate,
but as heat rising moments

of touch, smell and tongue,
as sighted currents of light heard,
as thought-breathed sparks of awe
spoken as praise.


A love story…in words
that might be said, but need not

in the end meet the air
between your eyes and mine.


“Who needs community”

raises question to statement
made to oneself
in solitude.



There’s more sky here than at home,
so light thins later, lamps lie latent

through rain-filled clouds
and the day stretches the pen’s strokes

beyond imagined returns

to turn fallowed textures of the known
to futures refusing definition.


To Lew Welch

This ring of bone,
this life of song
indeed suggests
no notes ever

gone wrong,

all that issues,
pure sacred name


End poem, by Lew Welch, American poet

I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it

and vowed
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
“ring of bone” where
ring is what a

bell does

Saturday, October 18, 2014

But that was yesterday...

Even in Croatia, the day composes
the poet-scribe—and translation, well,
that seems to come of its own.


The isle of Korchula—4 AM

The wife slips out of bed
to meet church bells.

One for each hour
enters the air-conditioned hum

to flicker unsatisfactorily.
Answers fail confused complaints

and sleepless dreams
surround the darkened waves

of empty space, everywhere.
Nothing touches of home.


Budapest—the date on my watch
rolls and clicks, so it must be so.

Through the lobby doors,
past the old men in the park,

crows hold place in towering limbs,
crouched and muted shadows,

shuddering rains.


Prayer and gratitude—

and do I find them again
or they again find me

in heart-felt folds,
on lips and breath

that say yes…


Of current events

and where to turn
in a world such as this
today…but to that concert
of singular heart beats…



At home, after weeks away, fits
like skin rediscovered.


Looking at 71—even at this age,
startled by my own shadow.


Look long
into the night sky
before saying alone
aloud—and even then,
if asked, I’d say
OK to that.


Mists clear with the coming light.
Morning prayers, the soft rush of breath
made whole for the world at large.


As a young man, I didn’t fully appreciate
how the music moves on its own,
how despite misplaced apprehensions,
songs were there all along.



After Ko Un

Early autumn leaves.

Will I dance too,
when I leave?


Indian Summer

We watch each other
across the courtyard

in the front of the house,
the hummingbird and I,

where shadows
first begin to stretch

beyond the reach
of the day’s sun.


Why poetry ?

Because of the way the words spill
to leave in their wake intimations
of insights gleaned from where
they have come, from where
they themselves have been.

                                “…if poetry is life, and I believe it is…
                                           when the words come, I trust
                                               they’re the right ones.”
                                                                                Robert Lax


Krishnamurti believed
we should write
our own sutras.

I’ve come to see
how right
that is.


Simply, to communicate.
Not to argue, nor convince,
but to simply communicate, simply.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Dinky Lakes

Dinky Lakes Wilderness,
Sierra National Forest   Mid-August 2014

Late, in the warmth of the bag,
a thin volume of poems

in high country

—eyes still wide,
abandoning the words
of the ancients,

I turn to my back
to return the gaze
of the waiting

sea of stars…


John Muir calls the Sierra, the “range of light,” and so it seems. At 1:00 AM,
the Big Dipper spills southward, luminous dusts of the Milky Way scour the dark
and the moon casts light through the quiet pines, just enough for me to rise and pee.


          take again the given winds
          that fold the syllabled words
          to where the earth and the sky
          and water and fire 
          come to speak and to mean…

               Deep in the woods, unknown to the world,
               A bright moon comes and shines on me.”
                                     from Wang Wei’s (?701-761),  “Bamboo District’s Lodge”


Directions to the cabin
at Boulder Creek    August 24, 2014

Leave Highway #9 to the right,
on Prospect:

climb the canyon’s walls
to where the reach of trees circles

a cache of sky so clean
Heaven need only let go

to find its way.

Where Heaven and Earth meet.
That’s it.



Be receptive.

We are never not receiving.
It is never not reciprocal.

That's all.



I can tell you only of my experience and even that is suspect. A dream
within a dream, Dogen said—and our contemporary, Ko Un, living openly
in his native Korea, cautions: inclinations

toward the ‘much more’ that lies beyond imagination, that too:
a dream known as ‘greed.’



At 5 A.M. the streets are still, empty but for lamp-lit shadows
that seem to accept, without protest, every soundless passing, low-looking clouds
the only ones to leave a trace.



In a place with tools that are used,
worked for the fun, for the joy,
where order is not overly so.

A space of movement, sweat and smiles,
of lingering scents of incense and bells,
the hum of human lungs

and that silence that surrounds
the settled heart.



to Robert Lax then

and to the solitary work

of this solitary mystic poet
of the Isle of Patmos,

unselfconscious model
of charity and grace, received

and the nature of play as prayer
that comes of that.

The work is ourselves,
the dance our living with others

and the foundation the music
that makes it all so.



Life-death has its own reason.

May today and all that it is
bring us closer, clearer…

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer 2014

after Jane Hirshfield…

 From “The Tongue Says Loneliness”

 As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.

Yes Jane, “the tongue says”
   but “does not feel” what is said,

“cannot feel” longing, greed, joy,
   cannot but form the sound

as sign that points. But there is
   the speaking, is there not,

that rising foundation of the felt
   that forms the bell

that sounds what’s heard
   by who we are—this life then,
is it not gate
      as horse plunging through…?


John Muir Wilderness 8/1

In the evening of the last day in the mountains, the chill
settles early on the water’s surface, the winds continue,
sun descends, shadows rise.

Light stays the slivered rocks along the ridge, clouds
perimeter, trail and streak, and we sit on a stump,
hours before the first of the stars, staring.

In the face of our own impatience, the given lesson
of no expectations, no demands, the lesson of matter-of-fact
acceptance simply manifests,

so true to itself
as to eclipse all need
of name.                       


Is it distraction then

when three yellow-petalled flowers
grab attention, when irritations release
in the flow and fold of incense smoke,
in calligraphied swirls of praise,

and following eyes find final rest
in faces of wood-fingered Buddhas,
who sign to all who pass that all
is OK—is this distraction then,

or something else at play ?


When shadows begin to lengthen,
we are reminded of earlier warmths
summarily rejected, now blithely refusing
belated regrets.


Woodchuck Lake—JM Wilderness

Night does not hurry this time of year,
so days linger through the hours
long past the time the first stars arrive,

as if, for only a while,
to taste of this part of the planet’s life.
It’s a glad time, bare of pretence,

where every patience is requited,
where all promises ever dreamed are delivered
and the grip of every secret feels comfort enough

to let go.


The nature of freedom…how it is, or might be…

to reside, as it were, at the edge
of a majority of possibilities,
all as yet untried…


Life is never less than,
but always fully accommodates
the fullest capacity of every circumstance,
ever-filling the furthest limits,
calling out from there…


Last night

just before falling into sleep,
a glimpse

of the gentle arc of peace
that hovers,

of tidal shifts, and the rise
of appreciation.

                      --To enjoy life’s immensity,
                             you do not need many things.


End Note

From Jane Hirshfields’s poem,

            “When Your Life Looks Back”

    When your life looks back—
    as it will, at itself, at you—what will it say?


    “This,” your life had said, its only pronoun.
    “Here,” your life had said, its only house.
    “Let,” your life had said, its only order.


    “Mortal,” your life will say,
     as if tasting something delicious, as if in envy.
    Your immortal life will say this, as it is leaving.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

June and July 2014

Just remembered that

trying to write meaningfully
is already a failure of trust;

just being awake here speaks
all the meaning there is,

letting go,
the only must.


Fernandez Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness

A cirque is a three-sided, glacier-carved bowl

that holds a high mountain lake that holds in its face
reflections of the sheered stones that make it so.

No one here says mountains don’t speak, nor lakes
whisper back—birds know, trees hear

rippled reflections
pass on the lips of resident winds.



Summer Solstice

Our first backpacking trip of the season
begins at Clover Meadows in the high Sierra
at just over seven thousand feet,

a walk on the year’s longest day 
that draws on all of our reserves, all of our resolve,

only to deliver a stunning display of stars
for a late night supper
and a long, dreamless sleep.



Lady Lake 8,500 ft.

Thresholds crossed are worlds re-seen
from places we’re often unaware we’ve arrived.
But not here. Unawareness has no place

in a place like this, where, having come,
being seen is a given, and being seen as having come
is itself re-seeing.


On the bluff above Chittenden Lake 9,400 ft.

The quiet founded in thin air and high thriving rock
is as complete a refuge as one will find, itself the answer
to the mystery—given all the effort, why we continue
to return, but to again be taken in.


Things that will last…
after Kenneth Rexroth

We spend our last day and night
at the Madera Creek junction,
where the Fernandez Trail meets
the Walden in the flat
among the lodge pole pines
at the end of a valley meadow
that runs aside the creek below
a towering volcanic formation
studded with twisted juniper pine,
a small meadow
traced with quivering aspen,
low-growing buckwheat, wild flowers,
butterflies and humming birds.

The creek is lined with willow and lupine
and filled with hungry trout.

But for the creek and woodpeckers
and when wind, the trees, it’s quiet.

How to be here is a matter of who you are.
The place absorbs all who come, goes on its own way
when we’re gone, needing no prophets to tell it so. 



Some turns crinkle, even bind
just a bit, some go so smooth
the view is the only proof

of change—change being
the nature of nature, notions of sameness
are inherently false limitations

risen from simple inattention.



For lack of paper and brush,
that Zen-struck poet, Ryokan,

is said to have practiced calligraphy
in the air—sweeps of soundless poems

spewed out on the restless tongue
of wind-filled skies.


is the gift of recognition
properly received.


Of most importance
is where the foot that’s risen
will fall.


the third way
to cultivate…

to live-listening
to the world and to what
it is waiting to be…




Skin, under the touch
of wind, of sun, under loving eyes…

The presence of turning
to another’s needs—having been useful…

The thought of the sound
of the grandchild’s voice, remembrance
of the name…

The glint of rising sun
bringing the final line of the poem



Sneaking out under the blaze of late afternoon sun,
ocean fogs run the length of the ridge,

white flags of promise of relief,
evidence of the possible

seeding shifting undercurrents, windows,
cupped and readied for release…

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New poems

Poems 2014

Late April

The window in the room where my books stay, where eveningtimes
I chant, is the only in the house that faces east, looking out across the street
to homes at rest on a slope that rises a hundred feet and more,

so the direct touch of east-coming sunlight happens only during this time
of long arcs of high sun, and even then only for a few minutes easily missed
for their quiet, unassuming passing.

But for those who attend, the season offers more, 
for as the sun drops to the last of its arc and begins to fill the horizon,
the west-facing windows on the eastern slope across the way

catch this final light and cast it back again in luminous moments
of shadow gold mosaic that glide and stroke their way through the room
like the vision of a lover’s breath leaving a departing kiss.


It’s not that I think
this is center universe,

but that nothing
ever goes by unnoticed,

except that
I think it does.


Their opinions…

strongly held or just passing,
are no more worthless

than our own,
good friend.


Slowly thinking, I see…

it’s only those movements true
to the human heart

that sustain —the poem

is not words, Buddha
not a name.


A prayer for Buddha Day, April 25, 2014

After days of unrelenting winds,
of trailing leaves and limbs, this morning

contains its breath in that slender light
before the coming sun

to lend itself to the single stalk,
the singular petal, to blossom 

standing alone

and to whisper to each
its name—Buddha, Buddha, Buddha...

Namuamidabutsu, Namuamidabutsu, Namuamidabutsu…



Opening the kitchen cabinet door
to find the heart at rest

is not a matter of finding more, 
but seeing deeper, clearer detail

that reveals the more already there
—like the sudden sight of dust alight

on air gone gold on sun gone down
that strikes a light behind the eyes

inside the heart

where space and time and ordinary place
are made to be known anew.



Because the streams of light
that touch the hand that holds the pen
that glints the words that glide the page
to scratch a smile to lips then kissed
by morning’s prayer.



the door lets
in the air

it carries:

be careful.



to retire, to retreat
to where Saturday or Monday are enjoyed
for no more than their sound
when spoken aloud: morning, waking, light.

The scratch of bird feet at roof’s edge,
your breathing—silent rivulets bob petals
open along the outside sill—the fluttered shadow
of last night’s dream come home,

the promise of stillness fulfilled.


California’s Natural History

Even at an age of ten to twelve million years,
scientists think of California’s Sierra Range as young,

still gaining in height and maturity—how silly then
for me ever to feel too old to walk its trails,

to think of my growth
ever being even near finished.



The spider web
outside the window
whispers with streams
that even bamboo leaves
have yet to hear.


6/13—a Friday

where even the most distant of  possibilities
seems close and at hand

and the silver taste of calm warms the mouth
with psalm-like sound

and appreciation deepens…



Can I know
that flower

but not know

its name—let me
count the ways…


Thoughts on revision…

to the extent attempted,
to find and to ride the breath
as light and clean as it allows,
to follow that trail, where it leads,
and no more…



In the dim light of early morning,
the crinkled turn of the last of the journal’s pages
spells melancholy anticipation,

like breath unburdened
in open-handed sky remembers its source
in letting go,

its deepest nature always working through, always
working through the lift and delight
of the myriad questions posed

even in the face of the answer
already freely given.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

To open windows...2014


Most often,
just blue streaks.
But they hop too.



coming in touch
with another’s

And furthermore, when

begin to chafe

and one does not
think to run,

maybe even



The calendar says spring,
but outside, petals quietly pry

open the crisp grip
of the last of winter’s chill.



May breaks 
with salmon-gold 

and feint splotches
of dusty white

buckeye blossoms 
beginning to bloom.


Have you ever noticed,
on these mornings when

windows have been open
through the night,

how dogs bark
almost-songs, how

children’s voices
waver the air, how

auto engines
turning over

sound the signature
of comfort ?


For Hayden Carruth    5/3

I wouldn’t have thought of it that way
if you hadn’t have spoken like that, but yes,

“acts of love,” gestures made in spite of ourselves,
because of ourselves, in light of their “impossible 

indispensability.” The unmistakable,
if mysterious, clarity of intent

to give in kind,
of that received as gift.



Night’s winds drop away in the space of a breath.
At the turn of the head, morning’s quiet pulls eyes skyward
to the last of the stars to hold.

What might it mean to be readied to die into the light,
to be taken in to a way of death beyond shadow,
a singular sliver of light, lingered, then slipping back.


fog is air gone
to water not yet—still,
we breathe, get wet


Last year’s kale served us most of four months
in soups and salads, stir-fried and mixed, and crisped
in the oven for the grandkids,

never once complaining, nor wavering, neither asking,
nor receiving anything in return,
till now.



You’d think at seventy
I’d have given up following
this pestering pull, but here find myself
sitting on the floor, knees folded, thumbs touching,
breathing—not wondering, until now, how
much more might be left to let go, figuring,
as before, I’ll somehow know.


For the Poet-Monk, Gensei
--don’t call my poems, “poems”    5/12

The early signals of truly warm days
are as distinctive as the pull of a known name
just before its sounding,

an unmistakable taste, prior to, that somehow
nonetheless fully partakes—like the earliest hint
of heart’s wonder, the flutter before flight,

like the shadow that prefigures
the moon’s halo.


Buckeye Canyon
San Bruno Mountain   5/16

The grassy slopes are mostly brown now,
summer’s color, studded with shrub,
oak of all size and bay in canyons and gullies.

Even without traffic, trails have turned
to hard pack that lasts through till winter.

Walking in this place on weekdays,
one will meet with many spider webs
and invisible pockets of nectar filled air
that speak to the long held influence
of native buckeye.