Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The way it is

Remembering the hummingbird’s visit
in the last of yesterday’s light

and its return of early morning surprises
of hovers and darts, then again gone.

And I wonder of chill, of slow moving nectar, 
of flattened light, of discouragement

and of fact; and I wonder of lingering
and of rest, of the delicate, and the brusk.

And I wonder if they are really
very different from us.


This age ? 

Well, it’s like waking from the dream
   of a younger man,
       waking almost fully rested 
          in dappled sunlight…



tomorrow is the middle one’s birthday, 
brought home to an acre plot
in rural New Hampshire
to the outstretched arms
of an older brother
still right there 
within reach.


Polly Dome Lakes, North Yosemite

Taking Murphy’s Creek Trail
up from Tenaya Lake, we camp 
on a rise in a crook of the creek 

looking down at the rush and up 
through the trees to the star-studded sky 
to breathe in the breath of heaven.


McGee’s Lake

We are miserable with mosquitoes—the smoke
won’t choke’m, the chill doesn’t still’m,
repellant not repel’m—miserable

with mosquitoes in the Sierra, 
talking into the night
of the next trip.


Hiking into the Tuolumne River canyon

along that string of breathtaking drops 
from Tuolumne Falls to White Cascades, to California and La Conte,
and finally to Water Wheel—falls and rapids, stretches and pockets,
roars and reaches and runs, and those ponds, swirls and suddenness 
of bedrock quiet—bare and domed and scraped and ripped, cracked 
and felled into boulders—rocks as big as houses—and dreams
even bigger…thank you, John Muir. 


La Conte Falls #1

wind blows needles
and branches that bunch 
the surface of boulders

where grasses grow
in accrued debris 
of disinterested care

where cliffs give way 
to whatever offers
of sun and rain

where ancient chants 
are yet one more 
untraceable beauty…


La Conte Falls #2

Just as darkness lifts, I realize
the falls surround us on three sides,

and though the trees don’t betray,
the ground admits 

of a resonance, of a flow 
and a pulse,

the dominant, yet simple rejoinder
of unremitting presence,

the who of decisions here.


Did you know that dust in the air 
feeds lichen that feeds on rock 
that turns to dirt that feeds plants 
that feed the air we breathe—

and how, when my boot treads
that felt-like cushion
that covers a granite slab,
how my heart skips a beat?


Scientists may come to measure, 
mystics and poets for symbol and light,

but the common ground in high country
is always wonder and awe.


A purplish hue hovers the interlude 
between the dropping sun 
and dark’s arrival; river 
continuing its talk, mosquito 
beginning its inquiry, 
we make appropriate moves
to secure the screens on the tent.


Everything figures in, every gesture
counts—the saints among us

know this one thing,

and move on it 
every time.


“If you don’t remember, it doesn’t belong.”
                                            —Nanao Sakaki—

The bristled purple blossom of the lodgepole pine
pre-figures the coming cone—a purplish-green, 
pineapple-like cylinder at first, it dries 

to outside brown that pries the brittle petals 
to gentle curls that reveal, for awhile, 
smooth purple undersides 

that also dry over time, to brown, to become 
simply “pine cones.” 

These mountain trees, the only two-needle pine 
in the high Sierra, are sometimes called tamarack, 
“a deciduous conifer of tough wood and bright foliage.”


“nembutsu,” the Buddhist practice of remembrance
through spoken word, utterance, chant—not so much
that we speak, but that the world speaks in and through

and as us, and all other—“a primal poem”—the open-hearted
energies of world at work the way it is, in and through
and all around, for everyone to hear…

                                               * “primal poem,” from John Martone


End note: reading tonight (7.16.16) Albert Saijo’s Woodrat Flat—a work amply and naturally scattered with Latin biological terms for the abundant flora of this Humboldt County time in the poet’s life—I realize I’d hiked and written seven days into the high Sierra and managed to mention, herein above, only one of the many flora encountered over that time, and what a sad state of affairs that is. So, for the record I’ll say another now: Sierra Stonecrop (Sedum obtusatum)—growing out of lichen filled cracks under and between large rocks laying on rock slabs studded with lodgepole and juniper pine— hardy succulents often rooted in what appeared to be Starburst Shadow Lichen ( phaeophyseia decolor), white to yellow blossoms on long stems protruding into strong  mountain winds, there even prettier than the field book picture—so there.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

First light poems

First light shows around five, the sun after eight, 
flooding the desk in golden hues that spread 
and pour to the floor and around the legs 
of the chair, 

the warm breath of gods 
filling the room with premonitions
of unseen goodnesses free of right or wrong,
soaked and soaking with the penetrating yes

of the world at work with the way it is. 


Beginning to plan my 73rd, wondering
what’s become of me…


Sentences say more than the sum-total meanings
of the individual words used. That said, 

William Stafford says, although we may be moved 
by the greater truths, we ourselves move 

along the way 
of syllables…


The priest, he said, always carries a small scroll
on a stand that might be placed anywhere he goes.

On it is written one word: “Remember.” 


weeds, called 
to be so,
are so


Naturally so…

coffee, in sips, while hot


Three yellow-petal flowers.
An incense bowl of olive wood.
Framed black characters 

that speak of the heart that trusts.

Light a stick, lay it in silken ash, 
while old friends sleep
in the next room.


I thought once
of becoming a poet,

but words weren’t there, 
even when poems were—

so I chose those, 
left the rest to others.


Looking back, looking even in the present,
at all those who try to change the world
for the better, one might well conclude
trying to learn to live a bit better in it
might be a better move.


Every single thing ever speaks for the universe,
sacrament all and equally so.

Tell me of what you’ve heard today.


If we whisper, no one will hear.
If we whisper, they may come anyway—

always waiting, never naming,
maybe others, may be you.

Even just a whisper.


we are the poems we find

as surely as the words wound round the breath

that’s winding the way we’re strung along

while wandering in wonder—

that’s where we’re found 


Heaven: each and every star
in its solitary shining, together
in the dark.


do you always speak in full sentences—do they 
always begin in capital letters—i’m not consistent
that way, i find—a buddhist for over forty years,

i chant because it feels good, but can’t articulate
a particular philosophy, except perhaps to slow down, 
touch as often as you can—

a friend recently listed quite articulately 
the values he'd tried to instill in his children, 
and now theirs—it was impressive

and i felt almost bereft in the face of it all,
till remembering that for me it was never so much
what i wanted to make of them, but how i hoped

to be with them—still so, even now, that
matters most, capitals
or not


Ego, almost fast as light. But “almost” leaves a gap,
whereas intuition serves quite well, thank you. Heart-driven 
sensibilities carry intellect where it couldn’t otherwise go.
Clear maps have their place, but even when lost, 
the heart is always close—and so, home.


In religious life, or irreligious, as it may be,
settling for solace may seem like selling short.
But solace, like beauty, can’t be bought or sold,
can it.


We know gravity by falling. Our response to suffering,
especially to the suffering of those we don’t know, 
is due to deeper connections we come to know 

through awareness of their suffering—we feel their falling.

To urge love here, seems an unnecessary standard
we may or may not meet. I say, leave love to its own.
Once awake, people do amazing things, love or not.


Along the ridge trail this morning, bay to the east,
ocean to the west, I come across gatherings of crows 
on hillocks to either side of the trail; they clump 
and bump around so quietly, 

I hesitate at first, to walk between, then decide 

to sit with them a bit, on a sandstone outcrop, 
check out the goings-on, 

only to be swarmed by an invisible cloud 
of tiny, almost invisible flies, 

only to notice the crows, all of them, up and leave—

still without a sound—

first impressions are said to be sometimes best, 
and I’m thinking this time it’s so: don’t trust crows 
who seem to have nothing to say.



“…how being old is as new to the old
          as being new born is to the new born”

                             —Tom Sleigh