Saturday, January 30, 2016

Winter's call 2015-2016

Let’s face it, 
you can look 
into one
set of eyes
at a time.

All the rest
is just talk. 


I prefer paper cups to those with saucers,
stir-sticks to balanced spoons and an hour
on a park bench 

to any waited table—hanging out 
opens venues that can’t be touched 
by smoothed white linen.

is voice


We turn into the light 
that draws us that way.



is poem
sounding offerings 

of return 
as praise.


Which voice of whose words today
fill cloud-empty skies ?

Let me hear…


Wind chimes silhouette 
a windless sky.

What might be said, isn’t.

Cupped coffee steams.



From between the houses, 
the coyote lopes into the street.

Heading toward the wild, 
he stops and stares.

I stare back, not sure enough
to smile.



is the only

And even then,
is taken care of.


Salvation happens.
Release is grip let go.

You know what I mean.


Puddles in night time streets 
hold whatever street lights
have to give

and for as long—both leave
when day comes, 
the sun

giving other things 
to others, even 
the owls.


It’s not what we are
or where we are,
but that we are
that begets 
that wonder
without which 
the world
loses color.


Recent rains rush the streams, 
shorten the nights and clean the streets
near trees where owls meet.


A break in the clouds reveals a broken moon.
It’s the silver voice, but do take note
that conclusions drawn here
may be tilted.


Morning prayers come in all flavors, and some
without voice take space left over in the peripheries,
theirs by default, but theirs so thoroughly

others barely notice the resonance that holds us 
together, as all—simply by trusting openness
where it comes.


Of so many things learned, 
the warmest is the heart of the giving
I continue to receive.


Some say authentic poems sound 
as does an unfinished block of wood

struck with a mallet in morning’s quiet:
unmistakably true to itself.


Mornings like this stay dark,
clouds hover and earth
curls with cold.

And although light quiets 
its own dreams, everyone 
knows the count.


Old age, that retreat
you never had time for.


We can’t say clouds don’t care.
I saw them this morning, right there
in the puddles, checking up
on last night’s work.


How many face-to-face encounters
are possible in a life-time?

Well, how many faces 
do you think you have ?


Almost full, almost 
clear, winter moon in winter 
western morning sky.


Fog swallows the crow, 
all but the call 
that is.


Rains abate. 
Breeze-held promises
whispering returns.


Have you noticed,
as I think the poets have,

that words willingly run free,
even when they can’t see ?


To benefit others is reason enough.


One comfort of returning home
is that it always smells the same, 

like incense caught when entering
the door behind the altar.


Santoka was a wandering poet who lived in Japan. He broke all the rules
of formal haiku, and then some. He “found” poems as and where he roamed. 
I found this one among his journal entries, translated into English for us 
by Choto Oyama, a friend of Santoka’s in his later years.

The Buddhist Temple of Chicago published a small collection in 1987. 

Santoka’s entry was dated February 15, 1934. It was snowing.

                               The snow’s robes,
                               getting heavier and heavier.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Joy does leave traces

Dreams of being my teachers
have followed me most
of my adult life.

More recently, I seem to have
lost them—must have taken
a different turn.


The calendar says winter. Rains return 
in the night for the last of the leaves,
each called by its earth name.


In the street in the dark in the rain, 
storm drains warn everyone 
who passes.


The quiet required of authentic attention
comes with it.


It’s pretty much dry
under the pine behind the school.
But I wouldn’t take the rain gear off
or tell the wind if I did.


Before the altar, nonsense syllables
sound truer—incense and fallen petals,
one for every direction.


Street lights hold intersections
ready throughout the night,

but stars have their own way,
scattered puddles

in darkened stretches
of roadways,

headed most anywhere.


Nothing ever happens more than once.
Let’s leave it where it falls.


Can’t fix the top of the chest; 

but the cedar center breathes 

just the same.


The subject is words,
those things things
bump into being…

some see a world
where no thing bumps 
any other—things become 

together, drift away, as they 
do, words too, so, 
don’t know

then, what more
might be said 
about that.


The lamp with the shade 
reflects windows 

that allow lights outside 
to come in.


it occurs to me now
how we know this silence
of which we speak—we hear it…


life-death, for certain includes 
the occasional resistant encounter, 
like a skein of sheerest silk jostled and shaken 
unrolls of itself to its fullest possible length, 
there and then naturally its lightest


I met Ho Tai face to face
there in the garden
under the fig tree

where he sits on rocks
that hold the slope, and wondered, 
as I spoke to him aloud, 

what he’d think,
if he weren’t like a rock,
what he’d say

to a fool clearing leaves
from under tree, speaking 
to a statue,

and concluded he’d likely do 
as he does as a statue—raise his hands

to the sky, and laugh.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Like weeds, the poems


Try to stand in the ocean
and you sink.


Owl Canyon

Fog clings low to slopes warmed red
with berried toyon. Coyote brush 
buds white on green. 

And willows layer leaves 
to ground there yellowed.

Some voices are best heard
with the feet.



In the end, words lead to silence. The reverse is true too, 
but too close a call to discern. Just string them out 
to their natural end—there it is.


Darkness holds outside the window 
and up from there 

a star
or two, 

muted clouds and whispers 
of moon-glow.



This morning’s words waft
like air-borne leaves in winter light. 
Certain uncertainties recovered.




Swift running shallow waters keep clear 
the undisturbed bed.


On the day before this,
in the still before the sun,

a hummingbird darts

shaded vines 
and wilted blooms,

each of us 
giving all we are.



San Bruno Mountain

And beyond this, beyond these bluffs 
of sand and grass and ancient 

a city sits in hills that dance 
in winds that sing 

in skies that still watch 
the change

still now 


That we begin again to listen and to hear 
the things of the world, does not mean 
they have been gone.



Everyone, everything ever, tells us
over and again, who we are with them.



“It was like our lives,” he said
of how it was back then for them,

which is how I remember it for us.
Our lives.


Too much is lost in taking things 
just for utility—numbers taken for fun

can be dropped without anything
breaking. I try to keep it that way,

with words too. Let them do whatever
they seem to want to do. See where that 

leads. You know, like William Stafford 
once said, “what the day says, 

that’s what I say.”