Sunday, May 7, 2017

February into April

After Cid Corman



in all
things that come 
your way, 

delight in
no need
to choose.


Morning, March first…have you 
noticed how sky lets time imagine limits, 

and other fierceness run through 
to implosion, never interfering, 

never leaving, always holding
without holding back ?


One of these naps 
will likely be the last.

Others will know, 
but to be bothered by that

you have to be there.


Fathomless for us, this lack
of impatience—work, wait, listen—

work, wait, listen—the woodpecker,
for whatever is there.


San Francisco to South Africa

We’ve been in the air since yesterday,
heading toward tomorrow—three days 
breathed in space for one. 

Why do they call it jet “lag”?
                                               3/9 (?)


Dubai—8 PM

Call to prayer 


Airport aisles


Many wonderful things might be said
of sunrise in Africa. But silence
does it so well.


On the Zambezi, downstream waterfalls 
give rise to brushed orange moon light
and shadowed banks. King-fishers 

glide the darkened surface
in the way they do,
and we do too.


Before being discovered, Victoria Falls
was called “Smoke That Thunders.”
Some still think of it this way.

A mile wide, 340 ft. deep, continuous
plumes and clouds of river mist 
make rains that fall up 

into winds that caress the skin wet.

You could say there shouldn’t be
a rain forrest in arid country 
like this.

Thunder and Smoke say otherwise.



In dry years the Chobe River contributes
all it has to the Zambezi—in times of plenty,

the Zambezi turns its abundance back  
into the Chobe, changing its direction, 

refreshing that which will be returned
to the Zambezi again, when conditions 
again change.

The indigenous people here
do not know “ownership.” 

Need alone determines possession, 
until another’s need.


Finding Orion lying on his side,
I remember I’m in the southern hemisphere,

figure he’ll regain his footing
upon returning north.


Namib Desert, Namibia 3/18

“Namib” means vast, open, continuous desert flows 
from Botswana through Namibia and into South Africa, 
uniform grains of sands of differing shades of orange 
and beige and outright rust, blown drifting sweeps 
and pyramid dunes, right to Atlantic’s edge, 
and then some. We do not intrude here,

anymore than the dune lark, who in all the world is found 
only here, in the heat and dry of an ocean of sands 
that ripple and spill from every press of any foot, 
then pool over to recover each track for its own. 

It’s the things we bring, the things we leave behind
that survive, preserved by air and heat for posterity, 
blatant evidence in every discard, every scrap.

Our guide says desert is details.


Cape Town’s Table Mountain
forgoes the first fall of sunlight

for the company of gathering clouds—
silent sentinels for vulnerable beginnings.


The first long sleep in weeks
and sunlit blinds seep light that slips
in streams that trace the walls
in silent pursuit of shadow.


Street notes…

Cape Town’s Nobel Square 
hosts sculpted likenesses of four 
South African recipients 

from just the last thirty years, 
joined today by a young musician 
playing multiple instruments 
for gathering crowds:

playing while recording himself playing,  
then accompanying his own recording 
in singularly live performance, 

wave after wave of movements 
of self-taught appreciation 

given such insistent vision
you have to listen 

and watch very closely 
to understand what you are hearing.

There’s no manual for Nobel work either.


We stay a week in the “Bowl” of Cape Town, 
residential-commercial mix, walking distance
to the civic center, botanical gardens, library, 
museums, restaurants, all within easy sight 
of Table Mountain and surrounding waters, 

in a two-floor, two room flat, 
open at the back 

to a cobbled courtyard, a table, 
two chairs and wilted vines, 

surrounded by neighboring homes 
that hover this morning under overcast skies 
rippling classical piano 

notes of narrative hours of heart-beat marks 
in real-time, 

where breath follows sounded moments 
of unlabored quietude.


Thursday, March 2, 2017


Above Buckeye Canyon…

the last of the clouds lift from my eyes
to let the sky fall
to me
in it.

Cumulus gone, hawks circle
dreams flashing white
glints of red

my own raised head, circling
sky like a dream, like
they say, like
in a dream

blue sky




Tell me of your true teachers, 
called so more for time spent  
than words said.


I’m glad to accept the offer—I sense 
the attempt to not hinder with obligation 
decision willingly made—all of us, together, 
a collective of singularities, singular integrities 
in a world supporting all, each their own worth 
in their own time, integral, essential and whole 
expressions of the whole. 

No thought of ought—the way it is 
to begin with—free.                              


Earthling, have you noticed how pines
hold morning’s retreating darkness longest,

how crows prefer the tops of pines
and long telephone lines,

how the moon, even in the midst 
of its long winter work, 

makes time illumine every face it faces ?


Everything that comes our way 
makes a difference we bring back
into the world that brought it our way 
in the first place, a cumulative project, 
always underway, always now, 
nothing lost, everything 
always spoken for. 

Looking from here, I can’t remember
anymore, what it was I ever thought 
was needed. 


For a moment this morning,
I lost the moon behind dusting clouds—

there, then gone, then there again. And
I wonder, for the moon, is the opposite true, 

if for it, we are ever lost?


Unfinished promises
fall like trackless snow

fallen light on early streets
smoothed luminous clean

and quietly waiting someone 
who knows 

it’s time.                                   


I do my best, even from my wife, 
to hide the extent of my idleness. 

But  since you’ve asked…

that poet William Stafford called a poem
a group of words that catches your attention
just so—anyone, either side a particular bunch
of words, can make valid determination—no
restrictions apply—no anti here, no handles there
to help you see what you think you hear—traceless,
yet real, like breathing—Ryokan, before Stafford, 
refused to speak of his poems as poetry; he simply 
wrote his mind—and Han Shan before him, 
brushed his ink on stones and boulders, 

left poems where found, to fend for themselves, 
then wandered around for more.

All these years, all this fuss, over nothing.

See what I mean? 


Yet another morning after…

Bodhisattvas sometimes appear
who help us reaffirm our center.

Although this is not always pleasant,
neither is compassion

always what we’d thought it would be.



Rain-ponchos swirl around legs
swept with shadows, silhouette trees 
drink moistened pavement 

and pools of silent street-lamp light 
wait for morning. Where is “here” for you, 
the poet’s essay asks and means, 

your “watershed”words you know 
you should know, that shed your shoulders 
like rivulets of another’s language, 

words that say, nonetheless, that something 
that needs to be said.


In this world today, one effective counter 
to successive preemptive attacks of chaos 
might well be equally scatter-shot: 

multiple random acts, unrelenting flows 
of individual gestures, of kindness,

from all of us, to everyone, everywhere—
“love beyond flags” of any stripe or color.                     


Lost in thought, rain drops
wrinkle awake shuddering bamboo,

dripping winter blossoms
waver the breeze

and the last of evening’s light
lingers at the window

whispering secrets
of spring—-


The almond tree 
in the front along the street,
pushes buds
in every direction,
always bursts to blossom 
first—this year, today, 
in a break in the rain.


One of my teachers once said,
once you get it, don’t keep talking
about it—that’s not it.

The boat bumps the opposite shore
to signal time to get off—a wave
of thanks is sufficient.

Looking back too long doesn’t help
adjustment here—early suggestions
of loneliness are intimations 

of independence: keep walking.


Saturday morning’s moon rests full
above the west horizon, almost gold
against an ink blue sky gone blank,

the last of the stars’ sparkled promises  
forgotten, the palm of the bowl on the altar
holding prayers like incense

offered to a circling world, to the mystery
of the reach and the burn of air.


Surprised by the arrival
of sunlight, clouds hovering the ridge 
blush, then reach for the pale blue veil
of this, the world’s newest day.


Aromatic yellow flowers adorn the altar, 
augment rain-drenched skies, petals 
sounding sunlight’s presence. 



Last night’s storm 
leaves a blanket
of almond snow-flakes
that track into the house
but do not melt.


In the dark of early morning streets,
reviewing the past, the myriad signals 

heeded, those ignored, those understood, 
those not—the puzzle of loneliness 

slowly unfolding the wonders and joy 
of solitude—at every end, a beginning.


For a moment, clouds make room
for sunlight’s reach, then close again
for shadow. 

A break is all it takes for insight.


No one knows I’m sitting here alone.
A solitary moon shines
in the cold spring.”

                               Han Shan

                              trans. Burton Watson