Wednesday, April 22, 2015

And what's more...

What the moon shows 
is less than whole, 

what it thinks, 
what it might if it does, 

only the bluing sky knows.


After Whitman…

April 4 
up at 4 

with morning 
lunar eclipse

with stars

on earth 
with all of you

casting shadows 
made by sun 

on moon 
casting back

luminous light 

let go



Good questions. He said they were good—this off-duty teacher
and old friend—but held too tight, he said…and with that, the habit of it
lifted in the drift of the lightness of its own seeing

to flutter and settle and to lay again right there
where it lay before. Now new.


Everything needed 
to get there
is already here.

You’ll see.


local time— 

from where the morning moon rose above 
the house across the street, 

to where it sits in the dark along the ridge 
as seen from the back deck, each digit, 

every turn, a mark in the stream of the arc 
left behind


Real things as they are, tell of time. Sunlight
moves through secluded rooms as readily 
as over the globe. Stillness is only so 
in relation. And only for a time.


                     “The page simply can’t register 
                          what the voice is saying.”—William Everson

There’s more to it than the linear—there’s saying, there’s
the saying aloud of prayer, of name held as sacred, 
of song as sung on air as taken and as given, 
of doing as living fulfilled in that register 
unreachable in the page.


Light learns and relearns 
the surface of the earth, 

which responds inevitably
and in kind.


Let’s not forget, she said. Let’s not
let things go, fall apart, simply because 
we’re old, and because that’s what old people
do—let’s not forget what we’ve loved we still do 
and show it, best we can as always we have,  
by paying attention—let’s not forget.


Home is where we are remembered,
even if we have not—original trust regained
without ever having been lost.


If every act is a cause, shouldn’t we then…
take a moment…


Without the precise, the particular, 
where would we be, how would we speak, 
of what, to whom?


Compassion is not a feeling, after all, 
but action, acts within and for the world, 
without the help of self.


We’ve got a nest I believe, 
under the eve above the bamboo
outside my window—

recent recurring flutters 
tell me so—slight shadows 
in the top right corner

leave branches to bounce 
and quiver, 

almost like wind passing through, 
innocent breeze made cover 
for more fruitful endeavors. 


April 14th

Looking out at 
that scraggly plant 
we hoped would screen
passing foot traffic. 

Enquiring eyes in floating heads 
that seem to pry 
privacy open, to reveal
me, to you. 

All those eyes, looking
through those beautiful
bell-shaped blossoms

that hide nothing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Voices heard---early 2015

Greg Brown,

the song-singer, sings 
to the singularity
of usefulness…

to voice itself as certain 
a signal of the needs 
of this age

as one will ever hear.


Taking each day on its own terms, 
living deliberately everything 
deliberately given, 

grounding appreciation 
where words 
don’t go.


Because each thing in its place: time.


the moon behind the clouds beyond the ridge 
there to the west 

a click or two past full—from here 

but for hushed light 
tracing its turning away


For the young,

the open road speaks 
to a freedom that lies
beyond itself.

The old, of course, 
learn to nurture each 
season’s gardens.

And either way, 
the horizon calls for all eyes
to rise.


Even the untutored eye can read 
the sky’s blue quicken 

the heart 
to open.


of a single drop, 
a river in the making,

each among all, 
the oceans—moving

water moves water, 


Without equivocation, 
ocean lifts fog 

to bank the inland ridge, 
to creep the canyoned streams, 

to mist the valley air in dew—what makes 
our thinking think its difference 

from this as us, as we, 
as a part of 

this greater truth 
and grace.


Because Sandino…

because it’s my grandson’s hand. This, 
most likely the last of its kind for me—I reach down, 
he reaches up, because he knows we, knows 

we together will negotiate this terrain, that 
crossing, the higher reach of the trail 
ahead. He knows.

Like the crush of eucalyptus leaves 
heals like the scent of millenniums of early springs 
like this the one we together walk, he knows.


And so for words, lasting meaning 
is not merely what they hold, 

but how and where they might 
move us.


As poet I wonder of the songs in purposeful writing, 
of the poems there and how they’ll be found 
when the shell of self rounds to hard 
what the heart might hear of open wholeness.

And I’m in wonder too at the songs of suffering 
and struggle, at the trusting voice of deliberate witness 
and the patience that weighs at the tip of the pen 
that moves at the edge of that music.


Is there then a final turn,
or is it more shifting qualities,
movements, more shadows moving

through lilting light ?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Passings—year’s end   2014


to touch

lands late

marked bright
on blue



When attention snags, then lingers
over what—it cannot tell—then, imagination…


Ah, the teacher…

Ah, the teacher—what’s happening here,
what it is that’s happening

here with this life now—not
what we want to happen,

but slowing enough to question
actual happenings

here and now, to allow
the rest to follow

from this—this, the teacher,
the taught, this the learning carrying 

forward this living, here, now.


Forever morning…

I don’t know, nor know who
can say how it works
its way

but floodgates, watersheds,
release renewed release,

conditions conform
to conditions

to create change,
everything again new,

even the old—forever

morning unfolds


For Josette

In your pre-electric island childhood,
the full moon meant

you could play late into the night,
on an island on the Pacific,

in moon light.


In the Sierra, almost two seasons back,
a pretty Ranger told us the glacier we thought
we were seeing was no longer there—only an ice field.
While the former shapes the earth, the latter
simply melts back into it.

Either way, the work continues.


The way it is…

Instead of the much-anticipated clearing trend,
this morning extends a clutch of darkness
into hours expected to unfold in light, even
that thin layered promise of pre-winter.

But as is so often, anticipation disappoints.

For me, the lingering rustle of raindrops
tells all that need be told, in real time—soft patter
on a rain-slick roof consoles, bucket lists fill
with daily delights, and long-term commitments

build around the resonance of heart beats.


After a brief respite, rains return to affirm
the effectiveness of newly applied sealant
around the bathroom ceiling sky light.
Yes ! No more unplanned showers.


Good Spy, Bad Spy

In other news today, it has been confirmed
that officials of the Central Intelligence Agency
misrepresented the effectiveness of certain of its
preferred interrogation techniques.

One esteemed Senator, from the state of Colorado
I believe, characterized these misrepresentations
as lies—to which, in writing, the CIA replied

that it was “dismayed” that it had “failed to meet
its own standard for precision of language,”
        and said failure was “unacceptable.”
To wit (if I understand correct): it is unacceptable
        to lie and get caught.     Now,

far be it from me, admittedly only a poet,
whose precisions are usually a matter of heart—
far be it from me to press matters of such of grave
consequence—but will someone please tell me

what we learn from this kind of “intelligence” ?


Buddha’s Name

And then, it was there,
just there, as always, I knew,
I have known. But, there it was.
Like suddenly noticing the sky.


Resolution…fresh flowers on the altar

Calistoga--year's end, 2014

Calistoga 12/31/14

--for the Kanes

The Oat Hill Mine Trail is the most northerly stretch
of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, rising some two thousand feet
above Napa Valley, sandstone bedrock
finally giving way to fantasia formations
of lichen covered lava.

The rooster in the yard across from the trailhead
sends me off, greets my return.

Along the trail, oak and fir, tight white flower buds
drape the madrone, and the summit crackles
mid-afternoon ice—no other face
anywhere up here—inessentials
tend to drop away

in air like this, in this kind
of space—what better place then, to let go

another fully lived year, give it back
to that great love affair called friendship.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


New Orleans

The surface noise, at times tends too much
to distraction, tends, over time, for someone
like me, to tire—it’s the more

that keeps me coming back, the currents
that make the music and the dance
more than just a party. It’s the folks,

who will meet your gaze for no better reason
than your presence on the street—you get

if you’re willing, you be noticed
with a nod, no matter the time of day.

It’s the genuine pull
of people toward one another,
hence toward you.

It’s the pull, that the people here go with,
that they don’t ignore, the deep pull of the true
and real that carries

all the rest—just like the river.


And of memories?

The thin curve of moon shoulders high,
keeping distance from the chill above the water,
some thirty degrees lost in the night.

A freighter shadows in the dawn,
the lighted tug groans, and the river, well,
the river continues—named or unnamed,

histories carry through waiting horizons,
under open skies and into nights of crystal-
chilled stars—nothing really ever lost.


The sun rises
among the sketch of clouds

just there behind where
the Mississippi bends,

but I can’t tell
if New Orleans is waking

or just now
heading for bed.


Even at this age…

It can’t be said enough how many times of late
I’ve used that phrase—even at this age—which suggests
of course, aging, aging advancing as against attitudes
and needs that have not too, moved along.

So here it is, a vow as such, to let the search
for reasons, for answers and plans, to here let all that

go—I’m here, right now, so,

as the masters were wont to say, I write,
sometimes chant or sing or dance, here, so walk
rivers’ edges, gaze grandchildren’s eyes, hold hands

with the wife and generally follow
the tangle of heaven and earth and my nature,
however and wherever it all unfolds.     



Life really is about the spaces in between—it’s not nothing,
but something you cannot see, except by what it’s doing.

Like the fog this morning, like a veil-covered face—moonlight
shimmers the only sign of breath.


Streaks in the sky, south and west,
clear light despite early mists.
And the scent of fall

that comes of the crush
of crumpled leaves, that speak
of the last of their turn, this time.


The stretch of the eternal
cannot be heard in entirety,

thus leaving behind
the silence

within which we can hear
all that’s held in time.


Tides of miniscule movements, most unseen,
often missed, though sometimes not,
is where the poet works—

      what does this blossom
      on this apricot tree know
      about this late-November
      that I do not?


A day with no fresh air
is not yet

a day.

What if
you wake up


Well, that
goes without saying.


And still counting…

Awhile back, I cleared my shelves of titles
I knew in my heart I’d not return to, or for that matter,
those that hadn’t held my attention long enough
to have taken too much space for too long a time
on a shelf like mine—took’m down to the county jail,
where men with extended terms reside,

where books are read and re-read, re-cycled
hand to hand, and talked about—great life for books,
for words otherwise collecting dust, uncomplainingly
doing the work they’ve been cut to do, and maybe,

maybe even more—which is maybe the point, 
you might ask, they’re prisoners after all, but who
among us has not been there

before—the point is like butterfly wings
and weather patterns—everything’s linked,

everything matters, everything counts—each word
every time—and the best we can do is do them

as right as we can,  keep them out there,
keep them counting.


                               Cid Coreman:

                                   I count syllables
                                         because every
                                               syllable counts.”

Friday, December 12, 2014

Places further east--November 2014

After two nights of rain,
leaves in bushes along the road
gleam with the grey of dawn.

Bouquets of closeness,
wordless offerings for all
who belong, tasted

as certain as signals
from home.


Groundwater—a cautionary tale

Groundwater, not on, but under,
squeezed into the rock beneath, deep
reservoirs of reserve, some say
some ninety-five percent
of global fresh water supplies,
rapidly depleting—as so say
the satellites, of all things,
which like us cannot see
beneath the crust, but can be
and are, as are we, influenced by
gravitational pull—mass or its lack,
the latter being tracked

on screens —red splotches,
deepening red splotches of absence
growing beneath the world’s
breadbaskets—take note…

take note, grandchildren: oil is fool’s gold,
always was. So don’t be a fool
and don’t follow none.


There is no shortage of flags here in Nashville,
and patriotic sentiments are offered often
and spontaneous in public places.

I chose not to be recognized for my service,
such as it was. But did stand for those
they wished to honor.

“You can wave your flag,”
a twinkly-eyed old friend once said, 
“if I can wave mine.”

Only when it stands on both-and,
does either-or work
for everyone.



We dined last night at the Palace—saloon
or club, you choose. But a vibrant venue
for what our waitress called classic country.

One song told of a bend in a river.
And while walking this morning I realized
we’re staying at such a place—the road itself
is named for it, Pennington Bend.

And I wonder at the sensibilities
that take such things as significant enough
to take note of them as such.

Lives turn where rivers bend, I suppose.
Clearly a tongue does, that then turns
and rounds its words

to flavor both place and people,
who then in turn choose their words
and how and where they’ll be told.


Our first morning here opens

a whisper of pink under high grey light
that shutters, slants, then quietly illumines
recollections of childhood

in rural New Jersey
transitioning to suburbs—a time, as a kid,

unquestioned, free.

It’s the stretch and roll of Tennessee landscape
that calls—leafy forest, occasionally broken,
wide swaths of farm land encircled by woods,

all of which then, there, was incrementally
being surrendered.

But what did we know? We played

war with dirt-clods from development work sites,
bicycled bare-headed on unpaved roads
and ranged those woods with few restrictions
beyond being home on time for supper.

I’d bike over to the Crow’s down the road,
for the entire day. The eldest, my friend, had
younger brothers, and a little sister, I think.
And two wildly vicious dogs,

always held barely in check by long chains
they dragged across earth made permanent dust
about them—I see now that the dogs were frantic

to guard something already gone—un-worked farms
and chicken coops long empty.

We’d inch past the dogs on our way to the coops
to play Cowboys and Indians, standing on the roofs
in the sun, backs to the woods, looking out

over weed-filled yards,
cap guns and make-shift bows,
unabashedly proclaiming our exploits.

We changed roles readily those days. They were
already Indians, of course, the Crows; and I,
I was already white. But what did we know,
what did we know, but to play?


William Everson

poet, then religious Brother,
then again religious and a poet, once said

“A religious man without a religion is in trouble.”

He favored in the end personal liturgy over public
and saw our life in language as a gift of the race, the gift
through which reflection takes place, the gift

given back through the words it gave—at its best,
a matter of thanks, a matter of grace.

He proselytized, but only the importance of awe,

of our awareness of its movements in us 
in the ordinary course of our day to day,

the groundswell of awe that pushes our words
to places we’d not imagined to go—which for some
will speak to the mystery and rush of the religious,

and for others is itself religion enough…
      wintered leaves
      fall from trees
      already barren,

      spinning akimbo
      through the air
      to the ground
      on the banks
      of the river


Found in the poems of Korean poet, Ko Un

“Yet the coming of spring is no repetition.”

A statement of the how
of our lived experience, before
manipulation, before abstraction,

continuing newness,

which when carefully considered,
naturally engenders

a muted pause of tribute.


After Ko Un’s, “October 19”

Time dropped away
without a whisper,

walls crumbled and fell,
and he stepped

ankle deep in the dust
of the bones of the ancients.

Their songs could still be heard,
but all he could do

was hum—they’d taken their words
when they’d gone,

leaving only the poems

This, I think,
is where we are today.