Saturday, June 3, 2017

a few more, poems that is

April-May 2017

Rising early enough 
to see the big dipper,

after looking up, 
that is.


Differing hemispheres means 
vantage point, which can mean

a whole different world 
view—even the slightest tilt 

of the head can change 
everything, inside

and out—y’ see?


The young jay swoops 
silvered flashes 

of blue and white, there 
where the old oak glistens 

rustling shades of green, there 
in the bottom of the ravine.


Returning to the State campus,

sitting on a bench, remembering  
breaking a slip of plum blossoms 
from a tree aside the quad 

where the new library now stands, 
a young man with a smile approaching 
and asking what it would be like if everyone

did that—and I’ve not done it since.
That was the year the riot police stormed 
the campus from 19th Avenue, shields 

and helmets, long batons, some 
on horseback—that was the year 
we ended the war—that one, anyway.


And along comes the poet who suggests 
we follow the cast of words ahead 
through the careful view

to something not yet understood,

to be opened to the chance to be changed, 
to the chance to learn the kind of life 
this might mean.


April 22

I mean, isn’t every day
earth’s day?


May 2nd

Even before I’d asked,
she said

she couldn’t give me anything
the day hadn’t already.

The rest was up to me,
she said.


Devoid of pretense does not mean
deficient—the teacher leaning forward, 
so I did too, to hear him say 
he didn’t know, 
and smile.


The compassion possible
from the deepest sense 
that we have no 
lasting answer

in the extension
of that favor 
to others. 


The way the winds come up
in spring late afternoons
and keep us awake
in sky star-studded and cold

and how newly planted veggies
held in light long enough
to forget winter’s way


East-facing windows 
in the slopes to the west
signal the sky

with its own light,
the glistening kind, the kind
that speaks of cool-born clarity

or of morning fogs that falter  
when sky’s patience
begins to test itself.  


The pivot, they say,
for examining reality fully
is self at points of encounter
with world, 

working points that re-meld
with original continuities 
to spell resiliency.


—a poet from here in the west 
once said 

the organizing principle of the universe 
is deterioration,

which for humans 
is the primary reason:


May 19, 2017

Fifty years tastes like morning
free of clouds, sky blue
suggestions of summer comings
and marrow-deep gladness
unafraid of loss.

We share a flower from the garden.
Go for a ride.


5/20 Ben Lomand

The space an open door creates
allows the entry of leaves, 

shadowed and sun-struck whisperers
enter and presence

as friends—fingers loosen,
coffee cools

and a place not home
becomes so.


Cleaning up around the house
helps my mind get that way.


Two riffs of evidence:

Leaves are not fragments 
of trees’ systemic extensions of sustenance, 
but active parts of working processes trees are, 
wholesome movements within greater wholeness,

as can be said of our lives, never fragmentary 
ever, not even one single breath-pushed thought, 
or glance or act, or feeling, nor any single word 
ever dangles or falls itself alone.


Nothing to be done
means you don’t even
have to show up
to be here

now means as you are before
revisions conceal

your self-foolishness
from you

means your own vulnerabilities
given leave to rest

right where they are.


The place we make for ourselves
may not be the place we’d imagined
in the making, may not
be the better, even if 
anyway we decide 
to stay.


When we say life, we mean us—what else
could we mean, we call world.

Just because loneliness is not an abstraction,
does not mean we are not mistaken.


May 30th—overcast and cold, the window
in the room open just a click, so the breeze 
can find relief too.

I’d wanted for a long time to be Buddhist,
but found words beginning with capitals 
burdensome. Being too a poet, suggests 
too broad an interest in work
not of interest. 

So now, I light incense 
in the room where I write
and sometimes read, 
just because.

Though I continue to try to be responsive,
I’ve learned to prefer that company where

expectations near weightlessness.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

February into April

After Cid Corman



in all
things that come 
your way, 

delight in
no need
to choose.


Morning, March first…have you 
noticed how sky lets time imagine limits, 

and other fierceness run through 
to implosion, never interfering, 

never leaving, always holding
without holding back ?


One of these naps 
will likely be the last.

Others will know, 
but to be bothered by that

you have to be there.


Fathomless for us, this lack
of impatience—work, wait, listen—

work, wait, listen—the woodpecker,
for whatever is there.


San Francisco to South Africa

We’ve been in the air since yesterday,
heading toward tomorrow—three days 
breathed in space for one. 

Why do they call it jet “lag”?
                                               3/9 (?)


Dubai—8 PM

Call to prayer 


Airport aisles


Many wonderful things might be said
of sunrise in Africa. But silence
does it so well.


On the Zambezi, downstream waterfalls 
give rise to brushed orange moon light
and shadowed banks. King-fishers 

glide the darkened surface
in the way they do,
and we do too.


Before being discovered, Victoria Falls
was called “Smoke That Thunders.”
Some still think of it this way.

A mile wide, 340 ft. deep, continuous
plumes and clouds of river mist 
make rains that fall up 

into winds that caress the skin wet.

You could say there shouldn’t be
a rain forrest in arid country 
like this.

Thunder and Smoke say otherwise.



In dry years the Chobe River contributes
all it has to the Zambezi—in times of plenty,

the Zambezi turns its abundance back  
into the Chobe, changing its direction, 

refreshing that which will be returned
to the Zambezi again, when conditions 
again change.

The indigenous people here
do not know “ownership.” 

Need alone determines possession, 
until another’s need.


Finding Orion lying on his side,
I remember I’m in the southern hemisphere,

figure he’ll regain his footing
upon returning north.


Namib Desert, Namibia 3/18

“Namib” means vast, open, continuous desert flows 
from Botswana through Namibia and into South Africa, 
uniform grains of sands of differing shades of orange 
and beige and outright rust, blown drifting sweeps 
and pyramid dunes, right to Atlantic’s edge, 
and then some. We do not intrude here,

anymore than the dune lark, who in all the world is found 
only here, in the heat and dry of an ocean of sands 
that ripple and spill from every press of any foot, 
then pool over to recover each track for its own. 

It’s the things we bring, the things we leave behind
that survive, preserved by air and heat for posterity, 
blatant evidence in every discard, every scrap.

Our guide says desert is details.


Cape Town’s Table Mountain
forgoes the first fall of sunlight

for the company of gathering clouds—
silent sentinels for vulnerable beginnings.


The first long sleep in weeks
and sunlit blinds seep light that slips
in streams that trace the walls
in silent pursuit of shadow.


Street notes…

Cape Town’s Nobel Square 
hosts sculpted likenesses of four 
South African recipients 

from just the last thirty years, 
joined today by a young musician 
playing multiple instruments 
for gathering crowds:

playing while recording himself playing,  
then accompanying his own recording 
in singularly live performance, 

wave after wave of movements 
of self-taught appreciation 

given such insistent vision
you have to listen 

and watch very closely 
to understand what you are hearing.

There’s no manual for Nobel work either.


We stay a week in the “Bowl” of Cape Town, 
residential-commercial mix, walking distance
to the civic center, botanical gardens, library, 
museums, restaurants, all within easy sight 
of Table Mountain and surrounding waters, 

in a two-floor, two room flat, 
open at the back 

to a cobbled courtyard, a table, 
two chairs and wilted vines, 

surrounded by neighboring homes 
that hover this morning under overcast skies 
rippling classical piano 

notes of narrative hours of heart-beat marks 
in real-time, 

where breath follows sounded moments 
of unlabored quietude.