Thursday, August 17, 2017

July poems

—July 7th—

There’s an old story
from well before digital,

where the knowing master
stops the novice 

at the gate, tells her
to practice more,

return in ten years.

She does.


A plane passes unseen
over the rooftop.  

A plane, plain and simply

no question, no need
for more

than this enough said:
a plane.


Ansel Adams Wilderness—8,900 ft.

Madera Creek runs strong. Scattered patches 
of snow, threatening clouds 
and the wide expanse

to peaks 
rarely seen from here.

Darkness falls. The creek moves, 
the tent’s netted walls 

make home.


“A few clouds, a few trees
have been your only companions.”

                                 —Chia Tao (779-834)

Chittenden Lake—1

Waking at six—the sun, the peaks,
the gauze-like half-moon 
in a pool of blue. 

Sing Peak snows hover a thousand feet 
above the ice-filled lake

and the roughened arc of cirque 
runs a ledge of pine and snow  
that holds the perch 
where I slept the night 

among the stars

at the edge of grace


Chittenden Lake—2

5 AM—before sunrise, the last star, 
            moon watching         

            are we not always
            at the edge, 

            just not awake enough 
            to see

            that way ?     


Chittenden Lake—3

The lake’s inlet stream 
runs from beneath a stretch 
of ice and snow

that runs from just below
the highest of the peaks, 

a rush of white sound 
that blinds the ears 

with a sense of ever-presence
that quiets inner tides 

with sense enough to hear 

lake lap rocks.

Differing ripples 


afternoon sun taking 
what all the lake 
will offer.


Down from the high country,
moving through forests
toward the trail head, 

we swim Lilian Lake, 
wade Madera Creek, 
stop for the night 

in a rock bound meadow

with time to linger 
with the thickened trunk
of an ancient Juniper Pine.

We eat, we walk and talk,
we prepare and clean, rest
and sleep—we look, we point,

laugh and smile—we hurt, we tire.
Same life, I think, differing circumstance.
Always a lot more to learn.


The last night of this trek is the first
I’ve not immediately fallen into sleep.
Outside the tent to pee, the Big Dipper.

The rain-fly will limit conversation 
with stars; but it’s always better to check in,
always better than not—you know, I’m here 
just the same as they, nowhere else, 

for awhile anyway. 


Sipping tea,
the mountain sits,
the man writes,
Heaven breathes.

Reading of Chinese poets
writing poems, writing poems.


I’m not convinced with plans, 
even suspicious, so have few beyond
the next coming day; but patterns
of focus do unfold pallets of pathways
of sensed conviction and root-free
intention—which means, I tend 
to just follow my nose.


What does it mean that mind 
is the true subject of poetry

and what does that say
of the religious 

who say this is theirs.

And is there a difference
that matters

before dawn,
before light appears

and is seen ?


July 23rd

“…I could not help
but chant out these brief songs.”

                       —Shih-shu (17-18 century, China)

After words…

The mountains make me sing.

I’ve been chanting now forty years
or more, more recently thinking
it had let me go; but 

the mountains
draw the heart in ways
that leave the breath 
little room to do
little more than turn
to voice on lips in song.

The mountains, they make me sing.


The only certainty is uncertainty,
unerringly fulfilling
all exceptions
of itself

—July 26, 2017—

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Related adventures...

June 2017

I’ve become an annoyance of late,
drawing on space and time it seems
I oughtn’t, there and then,

thinking too it’s little to do with me,
but annoyed with it anyway.

Out the window in the shaded courtyard, 
a hummingbird, blossom to blossom,
and everything in between. 


It’s Father’s Day at home, here 
in Spain too.

Once it’s got you, well,
maybe you know…


“Language wakes up in the morning…”
                                  —Jane Hirshfield


Thinking this morning at day-break
along the boulevard, small groups 
of those 

who’ve not yet slept 
last night’s sleep, 

thinking how much a day’s first words 
can mean, even 
when not spoken aloud, how 

grateful one can feel 
anyway, at all that’s said.



Antonio Machado, the poet
lived here, and you would know that
if you did too, hung his coat
on the wooden hooks 
across from the window 
overlooking curve-tiled roofing 
crumbling now, splotched 
with matted moss 
growing delicate bouquets 
of small white flowers.

Ethics and aesthetics are one,
he taught—the inner guide
to goodness: make it beautiful.

Mindfulness, for the world—why 
I turn to the poets.


“How hard it is, when things 
             are lowered, not to be lowered.”

                          —Antonio Machado

To be american these days and not diminished 
means acknowledging what we’ve allowed

the world sees as surely as 
unravelling self-infatuation brings us here—

heroic action defines itself most clearly 
with the demise of the disfunction
it replaces.



Close enough to hear from the sidewalk cafe,
traffic chimes

calm the round-about 
between the bridge and the end

of Calle San Fernando, swallows
circle, ducks skim, 

a breeze lifts skin to cool
and soft tones float 

the musical tongue
that carries this country.



The cafeteria machine whirs
“coffee long,”

tall birch trees flash their leaves 
on an unseen breeze

and the heat waits, quiet 

the pleasing lie
of morning shade.


Sevilla #1

elevator music
blocks silence morning brings,
mutes the clink of spoon to cup,
abducts every thought—

only the quiet rise and fall 
below it all remains 
at all its own


I’ve been thinking a lot of late
of the free-ranging possibilities
and grace of old age,

where future takes care of itself,
its own pace, where sustenance
comes in small sips,

unexpected stops, and memories
continue snatches
of wisdom

just not available back when—yes,
I’m going free range wanderlust,
infected with gratitude

for time received, for all it brings
and for the gladdened nuance
of all that’s left behind.


Sevilla #2 

The sun collects gold
on the building front
across the street,

throws pools from there
to here 

through glassed

onto the foyer floor
we’ve managed

for days not to see,
suddenly so unavoidably legitimate

our fickleness breaks
winds of self-appreciation,

tries to conceal shaded layers
of profound inattentiveness

to the continuing gifts
light brings.


Does quiet descend,
or rise dust-like
in light then seen, 

both having always 
been there.


Poems sparsely spread

count fewer pages
than days breathed; 

but neither has yet to 
let me down, nor 

yet let me go.


To Madrid

Contemplative quiet rises, 

track-gliding movements 
transitioning landscapes.

First stop reveals a different me.

With two more to go, how will I know 
who will arrive,



Plaza Porta del Sol

Madrid’s center draws the entire country,
every clicked degree, all the myriad places 
calculated from here, to there, each

at the same time showing its own 
unfolding abundance of chance—you know, 
the crooked, sometimes line-less lines 
of sensed encounter. 

You know, the living beneath the idea.


“It is important that we die
        only to show its unimportance.”

                                       —William Bronk

Our most important legacy, 
our ordinariness, is not really ours
to leave behind.


Naturalness: not wanting
anything you have to wish for

and allowing the wish the room
to be as it is.


Calistoga—Franz Hill Road

The deep chill a country road can hold
is only like itself, but uphill climbs
build heat that do a body well.

Two older guys pass with smiles 
and a lifting sky offers upturned eyes 

the grateful strokes of herons, 
two that glide and circle and alight

the tallest of the trees, to watch, 

the curious goings-on, there below, 
on that frozen stream.

July 4th