Saturday, December 10, 2016

November 2016

A love story:

Just say it, she said,
way back then,
and he did, and so
here they are, all these years
later—just by saying it
the way it was,
so it is now.


“…there is no direction
                   forbidden us.”
                              Uchiyama Roshi

The bald-faced, unwavering conviction of connection,
agenda-less engagement of open hands affirming.

Not naiveté, but trust sustained attentively through time 
and space. The point of art: the arc of its doing:

fullness found in steps beyond choreography. 


Things realized 
                       catching my breath:

Separation is illusion, solitude real—the best
we can do is the most we can expect—less 
is usually best—notions of failure, met 
with deaf ears, works—hands truly ready
are always empty.


I wore one of those
snap-on safety reflectors
on my walk this morning,

a gift from a thoughtful friend,
given on faith that it works—dark

holds secret light 
that hides there,

unless you 
release it.


The light from the lamp
drops across the page

except for the permission 
it gives, which if withdrawn, 
changes everything—

as is so for most, you could say, 
or is it so, say, for those who pass unnoticed, 
unnoticed through so many centers, invisible, 
and then don’t—

does their absence then spell darkness, 
suggest diminishment, imperceptible change, 
or just zero—not even wind, cold constant, 
not even the sheerest petal
of consequence—

like silk , like silk that pours like liquid, 
to the floor, doesn’t reveal answers 
for the fall, 

does it ?


                             November 16


Chill-chased fingers
find comfort in the cut
of the vest’s pockets,

as vowels followed
for the sake of their sound
curb in settled tones

found on breath
granted fully the space
there chosen in the taking—

fingers too, loose and limber
in letting go, are not spent,
but ready for more.


Agenda: all the earth, and all that all
needs to thrive.

Strategy: listen first, listen long.

Goal: song.


Two days of hunkered rain, now it’s clear
and earth again meets our feet, takes 
whatever they give and gives again 
whatever takes us along our way… 
no questions.

Knowing a giving way opens worlds
where language melds and gestures
recognize, in kind, gestures intended 
to recognize.

As is so with all of us, each lift of the foot 
is vulnerable to its fall—friends
are found everywhere. 



Like you, I’ve been in dark places,
and the future—only as far as how long 
it takes to get there—is rarely marked 

far enough in advance to make best plans.
What I’ve learned 

is even the littlest light, if you’re willing, 
will take you the full distance.



Winters here are green: rains
clean bay leaves, branches push
to buds, coyote brush blooms,
mushrooms mound in dirtied white, 
bear berries bare their red
and hummingbird sage 
speaks its return 
with grasses and weeds
that winter these hills 
again in green.


When relaxed enough, 
those things we seek, slowed down 
enough, reveal themselves, 
as that bearded poet once said, 
reveal themselves 
when we’ve slowed down enough 

to receive.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Leaf, river, sky


 to passing traffic
               along the Hudson River Park

tell me
and I’ll listen
for tales of ways
I’ve not lived 

tell me now,
and I’ll speak it back
in breath and blood
before it’s been
too long.                           


Indian Summer

The leaves, since Sunday, the leaves in the tree
across the street, yellowing green to gold

and the river, the river too, minute to minute,
its face rippling light.



Through the tunnel under the river, 
the bus moves south through Jersey woods, 
where fall befalls hills turned lonely with color, 

where rains loose their hold, skies turn whole 
and memories 

speak to things never forgotten
to a child’s eyes.




Promises only a river can make
fill night air here, drip wind-blown banks
and those who walk the Delaware.

Staggered tangles and leaf-shorn branches
cry out the silent rift, as singular leafs 
turn to trace the falling season.


And at once outside, and morning,
brisk, low-coming sun

lays brush to the bellies
of a wedge of ducks

made gold 

in the first  blue 
of day. 


The gathering…

in the subtle retention of place and role, 
the older cousin of the oldest friend,
even into our seventies, serves 
and nurtures the flame:

blessed are the memory keepers


after fifty years plus, the handshake
of the once serious, once young man
is stiff; but familiar features and tone
fracture timid distance, and time as well,
the parting gathering of arms
telling the longer story


warm smiles, quiet good-byes,
none of us making promises 
of again


Crescent City Witness

There, above the fluid swirls of the Mississippi,
the bottom-crescent moon and a solitary star 

watch day break 
over accrued river darkness,
over its great, un-rushed turn,

till sky at last suggests 
the reach into blue.


There’s certain momentum that comes
of time spent over an open page
filling with word forms, 

with weight and tone, 
with meaning, unfolding there like so many 
scattered scratches left behind on the playground, 

the business of play complete, the children 
turning their attention elsewhere, 

original motivations not so different
from our own.


A Seasonal Story

November First came at that first click,
along with Very Dark, who lingered steady,

even as Seven AM arrived, like some secret
signal to Winter, who I swear I saw there, 

right then, but distant, raise its head 
like from a pillow—Very Dark held still,
waited—Winter slowly laying back, mumbling 

something I couldn’t make out.

It was too far off, and raining.

Very Dark then left. 


At first light, the deep-throated engine
of the young neighbor’s car, clears itself
back to life, then settles again, this time 

in well-tuned, low-humming readiness, 
just as I do when waiting the next word 
from the grandchild’s smiling lips,

watching that irrepressible light, that spark, 
there in his eyes, that calls out
that same dance and pulse 

to mine, calls back the why behind the what 
that enables us both to see the wonder 

to be seen there.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

September into October

Among redwoods…

Sound waves the air, 

not so much as to wrinkle a leaf, 
but enough to bring secrets 

birds sing.


Morning’s shadow assignments 
change minute to minute, till noon, 
when the sun’s shift changes.


Leaning into the west, Orion looks down
across a raised shoulder

at the moon
lying there in the east

on its back
under a rounded 

shadow-belly—you can tell 
they’d like to speak,

but neither do.


A lazy morning with extra coffee, fun talk
and the inevitable irritations of digital life.

We keep record of most everything 
these days, mostly to ensure no fault

of our own—give me the pen, a pencil even, 
to find a poem, home to the irresolvable, 

place where healing hears tell of itself.


I was going to tell you 
about that small house on the corner 
just past the school, across from the park 
where the slope begins to sweep upward
into the hills, that has two large magnolia trees 
each side the front walk, converging limbs  

that looking from the street, frame 
a red brick stoop and a white door that 
made me think of New England, and later, 

now alone among redwoods, the song 
of children’s voices reminds me of autumn
and how it was back then.


Ancient redwoods, ancient friends,
hold scar-burns to black

for hundreds of years—memories,
different from a grudge.


Distant horizons, open grasslands, 
remind me how redwoods 
hold sky so high, 

even shadows tire 
while waiting for light 
to arrive


Tell me something sweet, 
pine tree, tell me: butterscotch.


When it stopped making sense, 
I drifted here and there, 

then left, with memories, 
but without a role, 

doors opening to streets 
leading nowhere 

in particular, just making it up 
while going-along-watching 

whatever’s next, 
watching, not as rule,

but as way without script,
watching for every thing’s potential,

for our next moves…


Sometimes circles close, sometimes 
incense curls the chanting voice 

that calls the wish that carries the pulse 
that sometimes only speaks silence.


The same coloring sky
that left night behind, 

returns day to us—sun,
somewhere unseen,

is called dark.


I walked the mountain this morning,
ankles deep in summer-burnt grass, 
a young jay sweeping flashes 
of brilliant sun-lit blue

that oddly enough pulled my attention 
to the pink pin-cushion and the gold petals 
at the trail’s edge, and to the last 
of the mustard blossoms.

Likely, he was he just showing off, just doing 
what jays do: the best they can to disguise, 
or is it to celebrate, their best gestures 
of their unquenchable inclination 
to unhindered praise and joy 


Delighted bees 
surf summer’s final throws
in piles of tufts and petals
laden with the pollen 
of lavender.


What came first continues to come first
in different words of differing tales

of different turns of waking up—every day 
a new day of learning to live 

the language where 

poems live.