Sunday, June 28, 2020

Is it time yet?

Sun’s first touch tells
and day unfolds 
about that.


Doing poems, I’m not so certain how,
works for me like air does 
body’s needs.


The poignancy of passing moments, fleeting time,
need not be explained. The old live it, young
fight it—it tastes of meaning.


Along the ridge line, 
whispers of last nights fogs
hint at heat’s demise.


The poem signals
our having received:


The poet’s experience
is the illumination
language allows.


The clatter of our own voice
can confuse our hearing
of others’ asking.


for Dominic Barter

        “Resistance determines 
     all that happens next.”

Engagement is the mother
of transformation, vulnerability
her sister, question her lesson,
uncertainty her only answer 
and experience the linen 
she wraps us in.


That we stand
is evidence of the given.

Shelter need not
block the light.


Nearing summer solstice,
grasses have browned, scrub and oak
deepened green, blossoms fallen
and trails gone hard.

These canyons have names
that cling to the tongue
like lovers. A handful of flora, 
scattered birds, berry-filled scat 
tell of themselves too.

But the most common language,
the trusted currency here 
is presence, 

exchanged for wonder.


To determine
is difficult.

Age, quiet anxiety
combine, times

deepen discord
to angst—blue skies

flash stiff winds,
fogs and low clouds abide.

It’s difficult to determine
which that blows is strongest,
where the dusts will fall.


The surgery is simple,
“unremarkable,” as surgeries go.
Pandemic times demand drop-off,
and a return home to wait the call.

Still in the quiet light before sun 
or breeze, long thin branches sparse in leaf arc 
the sky’s pull above the still silent earth.

Deep-throated purple-centered blossoms 
openly wait. 

A single hummingbird, a shadowed flash 
of touch, then gone. 

The unnameable longing stays.


Outside the window,
there just now glistening
through the bubbled glass
hanging beneath the trellis
beside the bamboo, sun’s light,

slipped above the neighbor’s roof
to rush to add to the beauty

the wife foresaw
when hanging it there,

a fleeting, but certain 


Emigrant Wilderness, California
—north of Yosemite

Tomorrow is summer solstice.

Yesterday, the Sierra high country met two old men 
head-on, shattered expectations of bodies too aged 
to go the distance gracefully.

A morning and afternoon of rest finds us 
in a rocky meadow under darkening skies,
waiting the stars.

Old men don’t argue, they adjust.

Backpacks traded for day-packs, 
we hear the lakes waiting, just need to learn 
what the mountains have to say.  


Dozing this afternoon
under a stand of tall fir
at 8,400 feet,

it’s my own breath that jars me
to return, a seed

on the face of the earth
floating in space,

given, as with all other,
place enough to be.


—Multiple centers of intelligence…

the rocks, the mountains, critters and trees, running water,
the breezes along the crests, open sky, distant peaks,
granite beneath the feet, the heat, the chill
at sun down, the promise stars deliver


Mosquitoes linger as best they can
in the last chilled moments of summer solstice.
Pink clouds scratch at the west, and this light holds,  
so, so long, before giving day to dark.


Jerry reads aloud from John Muir, who was here, nearby, in his time,
his journals of poetry-prose transcending linguistic limitations
in streams aligned and imbued with nature’s “manuscripts,”
lines of nearly inexpressible awe, the ecstatic praise 
and prayerful generosity of unhindered spirit, a free-fall will to live, 
and the living inherent there.

And so it is, on this, the last of our nights of this time in the mountains.
Singular scattered trees among thick forest stands catch light’s last
from the west, that works the openings with all it has, 
the all they most willingly take.

And come too, a time to refigure. Not so much coming years, 
as the attitude with which to engage whatever it is that does come, 
to come to that uncentered, unhindered, so as to constellate with, 
to come into touch with. 

That living. It’s time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Shelter 4

Whose shelter? Which virus?
          —a lament

On Black-out Tuesday, 
immersed in tension-filled news
reports, all so reminiscent,

I turn to the garden
for light spring pruning
of branches stricken with curl,

a sheltered privilege—would
that it would be so easy
to cull the poisonous roots,

but the tree still stands.
Even for those of us not on the streets,
shelter has lost its luster.


Still below nearby crests, the sun
pushes first brightness 

into scattered scratches of cloud
that refract a softer translation

on grass-filled slopes, unhurried 
by the whispered glow.


As if busy-ness had finally looked
into itself and closed there 

around a quietness that spread 
through morning along the street 

like the limbs of a great tree
waiting to take all that we carry, 

if we’d just look up.


what the song bird knows of music,
she repeats, the melody
never tiring


And so, at nearly seventy-seven,
living’s intentions realize
an indomitable Yes 
gives the words
that draw one 
into creation-not separate, 
gives everything else as well, 
so that we can give song…


A drizzled mist meets me at the door
this morning, darkening 
ordinarily quiet Sunday streets 
with the added weight of extended days 
of quarantine…
yellow roses
     along the fence
gently scent
     collected droplets


The wooden Buddha sits
beneath the calligraphy
framed on the wall.

Neither says anything
that isn’t already heard.


The aroma
the yellow roses have

waits for you to give of yourself


And the flecks of joy,
their living, wandered 
amidst thickets and blooms
of ordinary turfs,
are sometimes for a moment
lost in the tongue’s
attempts to tell of the fullness 
carried in even the barest 
suggestion of a lightened way.


Binging during the lock-down 
and a scruffy video eight-year old 
over-voices precocious wisdom 
about death as that precious shift
from somewhere to everywhere.

I know I wouldn’t have heard this otherwise,
so this dedication is to “Hush-Puppy.”


For Neil Young

If dream is a memory with no place
to stay, 

touch is what we reach for 
in the night.


Nature means the arc of the narrative
of connectedness. Words are the threads
of our weave, the sound of the tracks we leave.


Extended quarantine often feels
like being inside,
when outside has long been
Grey light, flashes of sun
and sky.

Like being held in old age
and some nit-wit announces
that “this too will pass.”


Even for those of us not on the streets,
shelter has lost its luster.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Shelter #3

What my life has to reveal
of value to others

need be told by them, not me; 
but whatever it is 

may it be unmistakably human
and tell truths of us both.


Possibilities flutter the periphery, 

that draw beyond boundaries
of intention

to roam the currents the universe allows

questions bereft of wonder
vanish the poems.


The enduring strength—I’ve see it—lies under
the effort that calls for it—leaving it where it wills, 
reveals it—pushing to have it, repels it. 

It works—it waits—watch.


—Tristan Gooley, the naturalist

Absolutely to the contrary of what we may tend to think,
“nothing in nature is random.” To know something

or someone, we need know that space and time

reveals specifics of accomplished survival—otherwise, 
no thing, no one, there to know.


The world as we would have it
lives along the surface of the tongue
releasing the breath 
to the names 
that call it.


So gentle the breeze
outside flowers bend and reach
just to be so blown.


Words coming together, as they do, 
in such a way as to catch the attention
just so, make the poem, William Stafford
said—and it’s this I’ve tried to follow.

Nothing more special than what the words
have to tell us, and nothing less.

Leaning over the open page, pen
in hand each morning, “Sometimes
I breathe,” he said.

And each time, release.


Venus spot-lights
the thin crescent moon in the west 

in twilight. Looking from the back deck,
I call out too.


Translucent, haloed leaves
on the embankment aside the road 

glow in revelation of the sun’s coming,
well before it shows its face.


Entering the second month of shelter,
the schoolyard playground at the end of the block
is empty quiet.

Up the hill from there, in the canyon crevices
where the stream runs all the winter, the Buckeye
are full-leafed, with beginning blossoms.

This too.


With April’s end, it’s light at six now,
even on cloudy days,

May’s page on the calendar
just lying-in-wait.


Sunlight glistens the face of the bay,
footsteps syllable the quiet, and still chilled air 
gives breath mists to touch the sky with.

Worlds sing words, if you let them.


And to turn in the dark
and feel soft witness, feel the trust 
of that ever-present “Yes.” 


How different the measure of the weed
to that of the flower, to that of the human
living, and which one, if any, more worthy ?


Those who go before, who have gone before 
are released into the very atmosphere
that sustains those who follow.

That this is and has been the way of it, 
renders any abstraction, purpose or name 
irrelevant on its face—

awe and thanks are all that’s left.


In a world—a cosmos, let’s say—alive
with itself, light first arrives everywhere at once, 
and not waiting the sun’s singularity, speaks 
and grows enlightened richness in all its touch, 
surface first, then the rest throughout, penetration 
of every direction in and out. 

Such a world as met me this morning. 

And to know it’s never the same as yesterday’s 
seems pretty much all anyone needs to know.


Language in its purest sense
is the natural and spontaneous participation
in the living world’s living, not dialogue

but song’s dance of space and time 
within the movement of the whole 

And in the end, even the seeking.


If it’s not mine or yours, then how
am I to think of things’ relation to me

but to change my perception of I
to we, perhaps, to ours

and that widening spread 
of belonging.


Earlier outside, scattered bits of wonder
tumbled flowered limbs along the fence,
cloud-dimmed light chilled any skin dared
bare, and between turns of gentle kneading,
the sour dough on the counter 
quietly considered the future—

and now, in the waiting, as sun light plays
shadow with the pen 
against the page,

my children’s mother rises 
and greets me, on this 
their day.


That all my horizons have forever been changed
and are indelibly linked to pen and page
is indisputable. 

But how and when I fell in with the poets 
remains a mystery.