Saturday, August 27, 2016

Just my life...

“It’s just my life,” he said of it, 
dismissing talk of discipline
or plan. “It frames 

how I unfold.
I just try to follow,
take notes.”


My most lasting friendships are with those 
quite a bit older, who live elsewhere, 
in different times.

There’s this thread.


Feel first—mind follows to the waiting quiet
unfailingly—deep in the ravine, the dry creek
holds the call of bay leaf by its scent—the softness 
underfoot on the granite slab carries heart beats 
of lichen—feel first, mind follows.


I’ve noticed of late where “always” is beginning
to tend toward “usually” and even the most cherished
of habits occasionally falters. The poet William Bronk
refers to the “shabbiness” of old age. I prefer to think of it
as reorientation, you know, like tides shifting. 


After Albert Saijo

Sacrament: that which when engaged
rekindles innocence. 


Unencumbered by reason, 
the breeze,

unseen except 
for its touch.


And when we feel we must
say something, then that something
might well begin with “yes.”


I can’t color the rising sun with words,
but saw it early

lift above the horizon behind a thinning veil
of morning vapors,

not so much shining as luminous 
at the edge of beginning day,

a coming, a being with
those of us there too.


We can practice, but that’s not it—the praise
of amazement, whatever the gesture, whatever 
the words, says it all.


Have I ever told you how it was then, before
the now we’ve known as friends and lovers together,

how stark the trail, how different the feel of the steps 
from then, to the who I’ve now become, but for you?


Morrison Creek, North Yosemite

Trying to think like a rock, I stop and sit at the edge
looking down some two thousand feet,

contemplating the reservoir rationale 
in a place where water has run for centuries 

and more for any who come and all who belong,
contemplating the beauty of the water

as it lays here now, and the beauty 
and the cost of all that’s been lost.


The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
is four thousand feet below 
Yosemite Valley—

primeval forests here
rain pine needles in sunshine,
cones thunder and thud.


Day 5—8,000 feet

Harden Lake is surrounded
by tall California red fir, abundant here as not below,
wind lifting splayed fingers of curved, grey-green needles into clear blue.
About a third of its full size, rimmed for yards with rock-strewn grasses
once its shallows, thumb-nail frogs and tadpoles scatter when water’s edge
is approached—water still clear.

It’s hard to finger, much less
letter a trip like this, down to and return from the deepest of
the canyons in Yosemite, in our seventies, still able, 
still willing, still continuing blessings: when seen from underneath,
red fir stems and branches spread in patterns similar to snow flakes;
jeffery pine bark smells like butterscotch; and canyon’s bottom holds five 
kinds of acorn, each an oak.

Neither purpose nor pride guide us
here these days—why we come and how,
sheer delight—these nights, at this age,
delight—breaths unfold, eyes open,
stars appear through shadowed boughs, and
somewhere in these nights a star shoots.


Almost 73

and only when I’m paying only half attention 
does the face peering back from the mirror 
seem to make sense of me…


Uttering Buddha’s name aloud,
like a poem uttered 

when alone,
is the sound of intimacy,

open-hearted witness 
that asks nothing in return.


After Basho

No scholar-poet, I just listen
for the dance and music of words
in relation,

is what makes me play,
with that natural outgrowth
of being me.


Why? Because
each poem is the only poem,
and naturally so.
Why else?

The Big Island


Wondering, a man, no less and no more,
watching the Pacific sky clear, blackened earth
go to green, clouds lighting the east of the island,
as the youngest grandchild’s voice joins
with waking birds—this State’s pride, a wild goose
known as the Nene, numbers over two thousand 
these days, up from thirty single lives 
some sixty years ago, accomplished, they say, 
by “captive propagation.”

It’s a crime now to disturb Nene. 
It wasn’t then?


Sun first casts shadows, 

sees how earth responds, 
how too the sky, if mostly blue, 

listens to the turn of bird song,
whispers of winds, 

then lets loose its cleansing breath
for all who wait and those who don’t, 

or can’t—each the same in this, 
all receive, believe or not—

nothing special, just everything 

the way it is…

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.