Sunday, September 25, 2016


What more can be said of morning light before sun
arrives, than the quiet leaves hold. 

For anyone in need, definitive presence extended 
in leaf-speak: concrete, undeniable there-ness 

that calls of refuge—because its call is its leafness, 
we too can bring who we are; because 

it demands only itself, we too are blameless; 
because it waits in rest, we too.


Just finished cleaning the house, 
which I do when the wife is out,
sitting with coffee to wait her return,
reading poems, writing one or two,
wondering what I’d accomplished,
hoping nothing—dust’s return is one
of the countable comforts in this life, 
reliable—I’ve no quarrel with it,
nor with the wife.


One of the more important lessons learned
this backpack season, for old guys,
is that the mountain always sets just the right pace
for the bodies in question, tells you right away 
when you’re getting it wrong.


At Kittredge and Shattuck, at the Starbuck’s there,
a single table opens in the front window 
just as I pour the cream, looking out to the tree
remembered from years past, still there at the curb, 
bigger now, but still bent, still looking bedraggled,
like so much else here in Berkeley, older, but
the same, you know, reassuring.


Sounds outside

Ignition to engine, mostly a sure sound 
these days, was not so not so long ago, when
the stretch from call to response was a chasm
of guarded expectation and stuttered promise.

Before turning the key, you’d steady yourself,
on cold mornings, hold your breath.

Back then, when met with silence, people 
seemed to know what to do.


       “life wanting to live in the midst of
             other life wanting to live”
                                 -Albert Schweitzer-

and so, when we lean forward then, when
others pause and turn…


Figs—from the tree
in the back yard,
twisted, plucked and
dripping milk…have you?


Folks I know correct their words
as they go along, so others
can come along too.

Separate the process from where
people breathe, and someone
is always left behind.


ripples warmth
like the meeting eyes
of friends come together
from the distant past,

cuts of the same cloth,
different falls of the light
of the same sun.

Chung Tsu, David Hinton,
Zuiken, to name a few, like Saichi,
Sakaki, like Stafford, like me.


I’ve lost track of whatever point
I thought it was I’d wanted to make

and instead find myself focused more
on following the point life seems to be

making with me, you know, like the one
moving in and out at the end of my nose.


Low clouds, or is it fog, sweeps pink
across deep green crevices of canyon work
that look out to the east, when not looking up.

Translator of ancient eastern thinkers,
David Hinton writes 

that our resistance to anthropomorphism
here in the west, is based in the mistaken belief 
that human consciousness is separate, apart from 
rather than a part of the “tissue” of existence.

That we ascribe personal attributes to the world 
as we live it, is more about intimacy 
than correctness.


The moon is out there somewhere,
nearing full in a mostly empty sky.

It will visit our window later, linger, 
then leave, telling its whole story 

without uttering a single word. 


While breathing the other night, I imagined
a figure kneeling before the open altar of life
spread like a book of ancient poems

that no one people could claim. 

No one language enough, every gesture 
tentative, those passing through sensed 
the pause 

and simply listened.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

August nights are cold here

August nights here are cold… 

The tree

rotted and was blown by recent winds
across the trail and when climbing over
my fingers gripped deeply patched lichen, 
somewhat brusk, almost like sandpaper, 
but beginning to lift tiny green leaflets.


Joy comes of its own, on its own terms forms 
place and trace, regardless the circumstance,
can’t be made, can’t be replaced. 
Joy, I’ll settle, whenever.


There’s a sense we all have
of the movement of our own body
through the space we occupy; or, or
is it and, too, life’s sensing of us
through the space it holds 
through us.


After thoughts…

Last week, the whole family stayed
in three condos along a common walk.

We in the middle, upon waking would
open the door to cross ventilation,

never able to determine 

if the grand children followed
the breeze or it followed them.


Nature, by its nature,
cannot be captured in concept
or by any one body, 
nor can it be left outside
on its own.


Even detailed, color-coded diagrams
in my own hand
can’t help me find 
the backyard irrigation line
buried deep in tangled roots
and loam—clear signs of success
in all but staying in touch
with the source.


The letters back then
those years ago,
how they burned
and seared

with dreams longing
to be lived, how easily still 
the smolder 
fans to flame.


With each breath given,
wind reveals a small
but intimate piece
of its continuing 

You’d think,
after so many years, 
I’d be able to tell where
it wants all these leaves 
I’ve been sweeping.


Thoughts on current events:

Ignorance is the arrogance of 
repeated insistence that you are
someone. The humble study listening

to the multitude surrounding voices 
that sustain, cautious with those 
who spew too many answers.

- - -

The lone discordant voice 
heard, the solitary gesture given
room—these are results true 

to the view that defies categories 
because no single thing, no one ever 
is left out. 


September 3

The sun is lost to approaching fogs
before seven-thirty; but by eight, 
the advance halts at the mass of ridge 
to the west, to shiver itself clear
for the quiet coming of night.


End note: you tell me…

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Just my life...

“It’s just my life,” he said of it, 
dismissing talk of discipline
or plan. “It frames 

how I unfold.
I just try to follow,
take notes.”


My most lasting friendships are with those 
quite a bit older, who live elsewhere, 
in different times.

There’s this thread.


Feel first—mind follows to the waiting quiet
unfailingly—deep in the ravine, the dry creek
holds the call of bay leaf by its scent—the softness 
underfoot on the granite slab carries heart beats 
of lichen—feel first, mind follows.


I’ve noticed of late where “always” is beginning
to tend toward “usually” and even the most cherished
of habits occasionally falters. The poet William Bronk
refers to the “shabbiness” of old age. I prefer to think of it
as reorientation, you know, like tides shifting. 


After Albert Saijo

Sacrament: that which when engaged
rekindles innocence. 


Unencumbered by reason, 
the breeze,

unseen except 
for its touch.


And when we feel we must
say something, then that something
might well begin with “yes.”


I can’t color the rising sun with words,
but saw it early

lift above the horizon behind a thinning veil
of morning vapors,

not so much shining as luminous 
at the edge of beginning day,

a coming, a being with
those of us there too.


We can practice, but that’s not it—the praise
of amazement, whatever the gesture, whatever 
the words, says it all.


Have I ever told you how it was then, before
the now we’ve known as friends and lovers together,

how stark the trail, how different the feel of the steps 
from then, to the who I’ve now become, but for you?


Morrison Creek, North Yosemite

Trying to think like a rock, I stop and sit at the edge
looking down some two thousand feet,

contemplating the reservoir rationale 
in a place where water has run for centuries 

and more for any who come and all who belong,
contemplating the beauty of the water

as it lays here now, and the beauty 
and the cost of all that’s been lost.


The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
is four thousand feet below 
Yosemite Valley—

primeval forests here
rain pine needles in sunshine,
cones thunder and thud.


Day 5—8,000 feet

Harden Lake is surrounded
by tall California red fir, abundant here as not below,
wind lifting splayed fingers of curved, grey-green needles into clear blue.
About a third of its full size, rimmed for yards with rock-strewn grasses
once its shallows, thumb-nail frogs and tadpoles scatter when water’s edge
is approached—water still clear.

It’s hard to finger, much less
letter a trip like this, down to and return from the deepest of
the canyons in Yosemite, in our seventies, still able, 
still willing, still continuing blessings: when seen from underneath,
red fir stems and branches spread in patterns similar to snow flakes;
jeffery pine bark smells like butterscotch; and canyon’s bottom holds five 
kinds of acorn, each an oak.

Neither purpose nor pride guide us
here these days—why we come and how,
sheer delight—these nights, at this age,
delight—breaths unfold, eyes open,
stars appear through shadowed boughs, and
somewhere in these nights a star shoots.


Almost 73

and only when I’m paying only half attention 
does the face peering back from the mirror 
seem to make sense of me…


Uttering Buddha’s name aloud,
like a poem uttered 

when alone,
is the sound of intimacy,

open-hearted witness 
that asks nothing in return.


After Basho

No scholar-poet, I just listen
for the dance and music of words
in relation,

is what makes me play,
with that natural outgrowth
of being me.


Why? Because
each poem is the only poem,
and naturally so.
Why else?

The Big Island


Wondering, a man, no less and no more,
watching the Pacific sky clear, blackened earth
go to green, clouds lighting the east of the island,
as the youngest grandchild’s voice joins
with waking birds—this State’s pride, a wild goose
known as the Nene, numbers over two thousand 
these days, up from thirty single lives 
some sixty years ago, accomplished, they say, 
by “captive propagation.”

It’s a crime now to disturb Nene. 
It wasn’t then?


Sun first casts shadows, 

sees how earth responds, 
how too the sky, if mostly blue, 

listens to the turn of bird song,
whispers of winds, 

then lets loose its cleansing breath
for all who wait and those who don’t, 

or can’t—each the same in this, 
all receive, believe or not—

nothing special, just everything 

the way it is…