“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,
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
Unencumbered by reason,
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
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.
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
is the sound of intimacy,
that asks nothing in return.
No scholar-poet, I just listen
for the dance and music of words
is what makes me play,
with that natural outgrowth
of being me.
each poem is the only poem,
and naturally so.
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…