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

Monday, May 30, 2016


Nanao Sakaki, Japanese poet, who switched 
from grass sandals to hiking boots, depending on 
which island needed walking, once said, about writing
poems: if you can’t remember, it doesn’t belong.

Lao Tsu, old Taoist sage, counsels; “With nothing
to do, everything is done.”          And William Stafford, 

just a poet from here, puts it like this: 
when you’re trying hard to get something done, 
what distracts you is who you really are.


Litany—a series of petitions or prayers, 
                               recited and responded to

This morning’s trailside litany
begins with a silver-breasted jay, 
quiet California lilac, pearly everlasting 
and farewell to spring; 

gold sticky-monkey, golden poppy,
browning grasses, checker bloom and 
paint brush; hummingbird sage, wild rose 
hidden in shade; buckeye blossoms, 
hillside scrub, poison oak and soap plant.

From high on the ridge, sun over fog 
over the valley to the east, a voice 
overhead:  a hawk, circles 
and arches its wings, 


Night sky

And the world and all of it opens
a canopy warm and dark and glimmering 
invitations to travel more deeply in.


Saichi’s Emptiness

My eyes can’t clear the date on the watch,
but the sky is spotless and still with me, nothing

stirring but air of itself, no wind, no breeze, save
breathing multitudes, millions, like weeds 

and grasses and millions more—even rocks
are drunk with it, crumble with it, dust rise 

with it, taking us in to its body whole 
with us all, all the way and more.


Just after dawn, showers
enough to wet the streets,

sun-caught clouds 
turning pink.


The poem
the door 
close enough 
for eternity’s
to pass.


Eternity suggests 
we drop everything but 
what’s right here now,



the one thing of ourselves 
we can ever truly give.


At this time in life…

more ideas, more formula, more choreograph, 
even that which smacks of meaning, seem now, 
no matter, removed. And me, distant, unengaged, 
off to the side watching, waiting 

for some beginning, for metaphor to fail 

in the face of real words, but utterly uncertain
who it is that’s supposed to speak, and, if it’s me, 
where to find the language and who to speak to—or, 

if me, is the move to listen more, 
to listen to the world of language speaks 
of worlds that speak to those who learn 
the language of listening 
to repeat in heart 
what’s heard



We go where we go
by virtue of where our-going
goes—flow is everything


Outside the window, long stems 
ride spring winds, dance and delight 
in petals, deep pink.

Too undisciplined to learn their name, 
I idle and wonder, what sentences 
they’d say to name themselves.


Thin-skinned figures
line the rail of the deck,

bent arms, bent legs
and spring-necked heads 

tremble the breeze
with songs of tin.


The narrator, an intelligent, careful film, asks: 
once we’ve noticed the reservoir of momentum 
that is our deepest living, what do we do with the rest ?

Keep noticing.


Everything we can say of it, anything we say, 
none of this is it—saying—that
comes closest.


Solitude is understanding the self
within unlimited embracing life, where 

birth, joy, suffering and death continue to occur.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Honshu--April to May

Because light,

of the world
gather it
 for us
 to see.



The writing, for me, says more
than the written.

Words bang around
as best they can, push

and probe; 
but what they know 

is nearly 
never said

and what they say
is mostly missed.

The writing itself
is clearer than this.



on day three in Tokyo, a long walk without getting lost
goes a long way to settle the senses. Trains sound
less foreign now, people wait for signals, for breakfasts
of fish from venders and generally appear to ignore
the grey-beard gaijin passing by—we’ve arrived.


Iris in the royal gardens
is said to signal early summer,
but late spring rains slake the thirst
of violet-rimmed tongues,
choked with gold.


Mists and clouds suddenly rush aside

to reveal Fuji, 

buck naked, under a hat 

of the whitest snow.


At Hokone Inn
at sunrise, the public bath 
washed away the night.



Multiple temples nestle in the wooded foothills
on the eastern edge of town—stone Buddhas watch,
large bells, quiet and ready, waiting the streets,
the freshly leafed trees, almost as if, in first light
only the river moves. 



Second only to Fuji is the Hakusan range,
pure, sacred, covered with snow and run through 
with the river Sho—Shokawa, river of a hundred miles,
plumbs, penetrates and tunnels deep, blessed 
with prayer and spring-borne petals.


The Kyoto National Museum

celebrates Zen forms. Old friends
show up of course, though we don’t talk 
so much as smile, nod and bow—reminds me
how neglectful I’ve been; but no one mentions

this, nor the sense of warmth coursing 
the crowd, that one form, for me, 

that continues to stick, impossible, so it seems, 
to shake: Buddha’s call, there even if 

no one shows.


Sometimes wind sings
through others’ voices. Birds
take it where they can, give it back
with gusto. Others think of it
as their own, have to be taught.

In time, we all learn—the blessed
do so a bit sooner.


Tokyo lets us go today,
the gentle release

of acquaintance 
turned friend.


Found the well last night,
an open-centered spring, deep
in swimming dreams,

a silent illuminating presence,
not still, nothing shown upon, just 


The heart falls back 
on itself; first trust there,
then follows the rest.


Recognition by name is nearly everything.
But witness, claiming only presence, 
comes closer. 


May 10th, at 10:30 evening time, the moon
high in the west, fully half-way to full,

freely blankets the world at large
in unbinding silvered light.


Resting on the slope of the shell mound in Buckeye Canyon 
in a bouquet of a singular flower reminiscent of lupine, 

bright white and violet, with dusted leaves, differently shaped.
Getting close, getting to the ground to press this vision

to memory, I remember Thoreau—curious intentions

flowering with poems of joy and delight.