Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Voices heard---early 2015

Greg Brown,

the song-singer, sings 
to the singularity
of usefulness…

to voice itself as certain 
a signal of the needs 
of this age

as one will ever hear.


Taking each day on its own terms, 
living deliberately everything 
deliberately given, 

grounding appreciation 
where words 
don’t go.


Because each thing in its place: time.


the moon behind the clouds beyond the ridge 
there to the west 

a click or two past full—from here 

but for hushed light 
tracing its turning away


For the young,

the open road speaks 
to a freedom that lies
beyond itself.

The old, of course, 
learn to nurture each 
season’s gardens.

And either way, 
the horizon calls for all eyes
to rise.


Even the untutored eye can read 
the sky’s blue quicken 

the heart 
to open.


of a single drop, 
a river in the making,

each among all, 
the oceans—moving

water moves water, 


Without equivocation, 
ocean lifts fog 

to bank the inland ridge, 
to creep the canyoned streams, 

to mist the valley air in dew—what makes 
our thinking think its difference 

from this as us, as we, 
as a part of 

this greater truth 
and grace.


Because Sandino…

because it’s my grandson’s hand. This, 
most likely the last of its kind for me—I reach down, 
he reaches up, because he knows we, knows 

we together will negotiate this terrain, that 
crossing, the higher reach of the trail 
ahead. He knows.

Like the crush of eucalyptus leaves 
heals like the scent of millenniums of early springs 
like this the one we together walk, he knows.


And so for words, lasting meaning 
is not merely what they hold, 

but how and where they might 
move us.


As poet I wonder of the songs in purposeful writing, 
of the poems there and how they’ll be found 
when the shell of self rounds to hard 
what the heart might hear of open wholeness.

And I’m in wonder too at the songs of suffering 
and struggle, at the trusting voice of deliberate witness 
and the patience that weighs at the tip of the pen 
that moves at the edge of that music.


Is there then a final turn,
or is it more shifting qualities,
movements, more shadows moving

through lilting light ?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Passings—year’s end   2014


to touch

lands late

marked bright
on blue



When attention snags, then lingers
over what—it cannot tell—then, imagination…


Ah, the teacher…

Ah, the teacher—what’s happening here,
what it is that’s happening

here with this life now—not
what we want to happen,

but slowing enough to question
actual happenings

here and now, to allow
the rest to follow

from this—this, the teacher,
the taught, this the learning carrying 

forward this living, here, now.


Forever morning…

I don’t know, nor know who
can say how it works
its way

but floodgates, watersheds,
release renewed release,

conditions conform
to conditions

to create change,
everything again new,

even the old—forever

morning unfolds


For Josette

In your pre-electric island childhood,
the full moon meant

you could play late into the night,
on an island on the Pacific,

in moon light.


In the Sierra, almost two seasons back,
a pretty Ranger told us the glacier we thought
we were seeing was no longer there—only an ice field.
While the former shapes the earth, the latter
simply melts back into it.

Either way, the work continues.


The way it is…

Instead of the much-anticipated clearing trend,
this morning extends a clutch of darkness
into hours expected to unfold in light, even
that thin layered promise of pre-winter.

But as is so often, anticipation disappoints.

For me, the lingering rustle of raindrops
tells all that need be told, in real time—soft patter
on a rain-slick roof consoles, bucket lists fill
with daily delights, and long-term commitments

build around the resonance of heart beats.


After a brief respite, rains return to affirm
the effectiveness of newly applied sealant
around the bathroom ceiling sky light.
Yes ! No more unplanned showers.


Good Spy, Bad Spy

In other news today, it has been confirmed
that officials of the Central Intelligence Agency
misrepresented the effectiveness of certain of its
preferred interrogation techniques.

One esteemed Senator, from the state of Colorado
I believe, characterized these misrepresentations
as lies—to which, in writing, the CIA replied

that it was “dismayed” that it had “failed to meet
its own standard for precision of language,”
        and said failure was “unacceptable.”
To wit (if I understand correct): it is unacceptable
        to lie and get caught.     Now,

far be it from me, admittedly only a poet,
whose precisions are usually a matter of heart—
far be it from me to press matters of such of grave
consequence—but will someone please tell me

what we learn from this kind of “intelligence” ?


Buddha’s Name

And then, it was there,
just there, as always, I knew,
I have known. But, there it was.
Like suddenly noticing the sky.


Resolution…fresh flowers on the altar

Calistoga--year's end, 2014

Calistoga 12/31/14

--for the Kanes

The Oat Hill Mine Trail is the most northerly stretch
of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, rising some two thousand feet
above Napa Valley, sandstone bedrock
finally giving way to fantasia formations
of lichen covered lava.

The rooster in the yard across from the trailhead
sends me off, greets my return.

Along the trail, oak and fir, tight white flower buds
drape the madrone, and the summit crackles
mid-afternoon ice—no other face
anywhere up here—inessentials
tend to drop away

in air like this, in this kind
of space—what better place then, to let go

another fully lived year, give it back
to that great love affair called friendship.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


New Orleans

The surface noise, at times tends too much
to distraction, tends, over time, for someone
like me, to tire—it’s the more

that keeps me coming back, the currents
that make the music and the dance
more than just a party. It’s the folks,

who will meet your gaze for no better reason
than your presence on the street—you get

if you’re willing, you be noticed
with a nod, no matter the time of day.

It’s the genuine pull
of people toward one another,
hence toward you.

It’s the pull, that the people here go with,
that they don’t ignore, the deep pull of the true
and real that carries

all the rest—just like the river.


And of memories?

The thin curve of moon shoulders high,
keeping distance from the chill above the water,
some thirty degrees lost in the night.

A freighter shadows in the dawn,
the lighted tug groans, and the river, well,
the river continues—named or unnamed,

histories carry through waiting horizons,
under open skies and into nights of crystal-
chilled stars—nothing really ever lost.


The sun rises
among the sketch of clouds

just there behind where
the Mississippi bends,

but I can’t tell
if New Orleans is waking

or just now
heading for bed.


Even at this age…

It can’t be said enough how many times of late
I’ve used that phrase—even at this age—which suggests
of course, aging, aging advancing as against attitudes
and needs that have not too, moved along.

So here it is, a vow as such, to let the search
for reasons, for answers and plans, to here let all that

go—I’m here, right now, so,

as the masters were wont to say, I write,
sometimes chant or sing or dance, here, so walk
rivers’ edges, gaze grandchildren’s eyes, hold hands

with the wife and generally follow
the tangle of heaven and earth and my nature,
however and wherever it all unfolds.     



Life really is about the spaces in between—it’s not nothing,
but something you cannot see, except by what it’s doing.

Like the fog this morning, like a veil-covered face—moonlight
shimmers the only sign of breath.


Streaks in the sky, south and west,
clear light despite early mists.
And the scent of fall

that comes of the crush
of crumpled leaves, that speak
of the last of their turn, this time.


The stretch of the eternal
cannot be heard in entirety,

thus leaving behind
the silence

within which we can hear
all that’s held in time.


Tides of miniscule movements, most unseen,
often missed, though sometimes not,
is where the poet works—

      what does this blossom
      on this apricot tree know
      about this late-November
      that I do not?


A day with no fresh air
is not yet

a day.

What if
you wake up


Well, that
goes without saying.


And still counting…

Awhile back, I cleared my shelves of titles
I knew in my heart I’d not return to, or for that matter,
those that hadn’t held my attention long enough
to have taken too much space for too long a time
on a shelf like mine—took’m down to the county jail,
where men with extended terms reside,

where books are read and re-read, re-cycled
hand to hand, and talked about—great life for books,
for words otherwise collecting dust, uncomplainingly
doing the work they’ve been cut to do, and maybe,

maybe even more—which is maybe the point, 
you might ask, they’re prisoners after all, but who
among us has not been there

before—the point is like butterfly wings
and weather patterns—everything’s linked,

everything matters, everything counts—each word
every time—and the best we can do is do them

as right as we can,  keep them out there,
keep them counting.


                               Cid Coreman:

                                   I count syllables
                                         because every
                                               syllable counts.”

Friday, December 12, 2014

Places further east--November 2014

After two nights of rain,
leaves in bushes along the road
gleam with the grey of dawn.

Bouquets of closeness,
wordless offerings for all
who belong, tasted

as certain as signals
from home.


Groundwater—a cautionary tale

Groundwater, not on, but under,
squeezed into the rock beneath, deep
reservoirs of reserve, some say
some ninety-five percent
of global fresh water supplies,
rapidly depleting—as so say
the satellites, of all things,
which like us cannot see
beneath the crust, but can be
and are, as are we, influenced by
gravitational pull—mass or its lack,
the latter being tracked

on screens —red splotches,
deepening red splotches of absence
growing beneath the world’s
breadbaskets—take note…

take note, grandchildren: oil is fool’s gold,
always was. So don’t be a fool
and don’t follow none.


There is no shortage of flags here in Nashville,
and patriotic sentiments are offered often
and spontaneous in public places.

I chose not to be recognized for my service,
such as it was. But did stand for those
they wished to honor.

“You can wave your flag,”
a twinkly-eyed old friend once said, 
“if I can wave mine.”

Only when it stands on both-and,
does either-or work
for everyone.



We dined last night at the Palace—saloon
or club, you choose. But a vibrant venue
for what our waitress called classic country.

One song told of a bend in a river.
And while walking this morning I realized
we’re staying at such a place—the road itself
is named for it, Pennington Bend.

And I wonder at the sensibilities
that take such things as significant enough
to take note of them as such.

Lives turn where rivers bend, I suppose.
Clearly a tongue does, that then turns
and rounds its words

to flavor both place and people,
who then in turn choose their words
and how and where they’ll be told.


Our first morning here opens

a whisper of pink under high grey light
that shutters, slants, then quietly illumines
recollections of childhood

in rural New Jersey
transitioning to suburbs—a time, as a kid,

unquestioned, free.

It’s the stretch and roll of Tennessee landscape
that calls—leafy forest, occasionally broken,
wide swaths of farm land encircled by woods,

all of which then, there, was incrementally
being surrendered.

But what did we know? We played

war with dirt-clods from development work sites,
bicycled bare-headed on unpaved roads
and ranged those woods with few restrictions
beyond being home on time for supper.

I’d bike over to the Crow’s down the road,
for the entire day. The eldest, my friend, had
younger brothers, and a little sister, I think.
And two wildly vicious dogs,

always held barely in check by long chains
they dragged across earth made permanent dust
about them—I see now that the dogs were frantic

to guard something already gone—un-worked farms
and chicken coops long empty.

We’d inch past the dogs on our way to the coops
to play Cowboys and Indians, standing on the roofs
in the sun, backs to the woods, looking out

over weed-filled yards,
cap guns and make-shift bows,
unabashedly proclaiming our exploits.

We changed roles readily those days. They were
already Indians, of course, the Crows; and I,
I was already white. But what did we know,
what did we know, but to play?


William Everson

poet, then religious Brother,
then again religious and a poet, once said

“A religious man without a religion is in trouble.”

He favored in the end personal liturgy over public
and saw our life in language as a gift of the race, the gift
through which reflection takes place, the gift

given back through the words it gave—at its best,
a matter of thanks, a matter of grace.

He proselytized, but only the importance of awe,

of our awareness of its movements in us 
in the ordinary course of our day to day,

the groundswell of awe that pushes our words
to places we’d not imagined to go—which for some
will speak to the mystery and rush of the religious,

and for others is itself religion enough…
      wintered leaves
      fall from trees
      already barren,

      spinning akimbo
      through the air
      to the ground
      on the banks
      of the river


Found in the poems of Korean poet, Ko Un

“Yet the coming of spring is no repetition.”

A statement of the how
of our lived experience, before
manipulation, before abstraction,

continuing newness,

which when carefully considered,
naturally engenders

a muted pause of tribute.


After Ko Un’s, “October 19”

Time dropped away
without a whisper,

walls crumbled and fell,
and he stepped

ankle deep in the dust
of the bones of the ancients.

Their songs could still be heard,
but all he could do

was hum—they’d taken their words
when they’d gone,

leaving only the poems

This, I think,
is where we are today. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

After talking with the poets

What are the chances, even in a small town,
of meeting the only car that moves on the street
at 4:30 AM, at just the driveway it wants,
and it having to wait

for you to pass. And a block beyond,
to meet another solitary walker
coming down the stairs you’re going up,
passing so close your sleeves brush—

who would guess, even in a small town,
in this world how close we all really are ?


Robert Lax says attention is holy
and that’s why we all want it.

And why perhaps, when we attend
to the direction our own attention has turned,

we’ll likely find our way
to where we’ve wanted to be

all along—it’s its own light.


Trying too hard to sing tires the heart.
Just hum—it’s still song…


To speak of god
is not to speak
as something separate,
but as heat rising moments

of touch, smell and tongue,
as sighted currents of light heard,
as thought-breathed sparks of awe
spoken as praise.


A love story…in words
that might be said, but need not

in the end meet the air
between your eyes and mine.


“Who needs community”

raises question to statement
made to oneself
in solitude.



There’s more sky here than at home,
so light thins later, lamps lie latent

through rain-filled clouds
and the day stretches the pen’s strokes

beyond imagined returns

to turn fallowed textures of the known
to futures refusing definition.


To Lew Welch

This ring of bone,
this life of song
indeed suggests
no notes ever

gone wrong,

all that issues,
pure sacred name


End poem, by Lew Welch, American poet

I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it

and vowed
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
“ring of bone” where
ring is what a

bell does

Saturday, October 18, 2014

But that was yesterday...

Even in Croatia, the day composes
the poet-scribe—and translation, well,
that seems to come of its own.


The isle of Korchula—4 AM

The wife slips out of bed
to meet church bells.

One for each hour
enters the air-conditioned hum

to flicker unsatisfactorily.
Answers fail confused complaints

and sleepless dreams
surround the darkened waves

of empty space, everywhere.
Nothing touches of home.


Budapest—the date on my watch
rolls and clicks, so it must be so.

Through the lobby doors,
past the old men in the park,

crows hold place in towering limbs,
crouched and muted shadows,

shuddering rains.


Prayer and gratitude—

and do I find them again
or they again find me

in heart-felt folds,
on lips and breath

that say yes…


Of current events

and where to turn
in a world such as this
today…but to that concert
of singular heart beats…



At home, after weeks away, fits
like skin rediscovered.


Looking at 71—even at this age,
startled by my own shadow.


Look long
into the night sky
before saying alone
aloud—and even then,
if asked, I’d say
OK to that.


Mists clear with the coming light.
Morning prayers, the soft rush of breath
made whole for the world at large.


As a young man, I didn’t fully appreciate
how the music moves on its own,
how despite misplaced apprehensions,
songs were there all along.



After Ko Un

Early autumn leaves.

Will I dance too,
when I leave?


Indian Summer

We watch each other
across the courtyard

in the front of the house,
the hummingbird and I,

where shadows
first begin to stretch

beyond the reach
of the day’s sun.


Why poetry ?

Because of the way the words spill
to leave in their wake intimations
of insights gleaned from where
they have come, from where
they themselves have been.

                                “…if poetry is life, and I believe it is…
                                           when the words come, I trust
                                               they’re the right ones.”
                                                                                Robert Lax


Krishnamurti believed
we should write
our own sutras.

I’ve come to see
how right
that is.


Simply, to communicate.
Not to argue, nor convince,
but to simply communicate, simply.