Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer 2014

after Jane Hirshfield…

 From “The Tongue Says Loneliness”

 As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.

Yes Jane, “the tongue says”
   but “does not feel” what is said,

“cannot feel” longing, greed, joy,
   cannot but form the sound

as sign that points. But there is
   the speaking, is there not,

that rising foundation of the felt
   that forms the bell

that sounds what’s heard
   by who we are—this life then,
is it not gate
      as horse plunging through…?


John Muir Wilderness 8/1

In the evening of the last day in the mountains, the chill
settles early on the water’s surface, the winds continue,
sun descends, shadows rise.

Light stays the slivered rocks along the ridge, clouds
perimeter, trail and streak, and we sit on a stump,
hours before the first of the stars, staring.

In the face of our own impatience, the given lesson
of no expectations, no demands, the lesson of matter-of-fact
acceptance simply manifests,

so true to itself
as to eclipse all need
of name.                       


Is it distraction then

when three yellow-petalled flowers
grab attention, when irritations release
in the flow and fold of incense smoke,
in calligraphied swirls of praise,

and following eyes find final rest
in faces of wood-fingered Buddhas,
who sign to all who pass that all
is OK—is this distraction then,

or something else at play ?


When shadows begin to lengthen,
we are reminded of earlier warmths
summarily rejected, now blithely refusing
belated regrets.


Woodchuck Lake—JM Wilderness

Night does not hurry this time of year,
so days linger through the hours
long past the time the first stars arrive,

as if, for only a while,
to taste of this part of the planet’s life.
It’s a glad time, bare of pretence,

where every patience is requited,
where all promises ever dreamed are delivered
and the grip of every secret feels comfort enough

to let go.


The nature of freedom…how it is, or might be…

to reside, as it were, at the edge
of a majority of possibilities,
all as yet untried…


Life is never less than,
but always fully accommodates
the fullest capacity of every circumstance,
ever-filling the furthest limits,
calling out from there…


Last night

just before falling into sleep,
a glimpse

of the gentle arc of peace
that hovers,

of tidal shifts, and the rise
of appreciation.

                      --To enjoy life’s immensity,
                             you do not need many things.


End Note

From Jane Hirshfields’s poem,

            “When Your Life Looks Back”

    When your life looks back—
    as it will, at itself, at you—what will it say?


    “This,” your life had said, its only pronoun.
    “Here,” your life had said, its only house.
    “Let,” your life had said, its only order.


    “Mortal,” your life will say,
     as if tasting something delicious, as if in envy.
    Your immortal life will say this, as it is leaving.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

June and July 2014

Just remembered that

trying to write meaningfully
is already a failure of trust;

just being awake here speaks
all the meaning there is,

letting go,
the only must.


Fernandez Trail, Ansel Adams Wilderness

A cirque is a three-sided, glacier-carved bowl

that holds a high mountain lake that holds in its face
reflections of the sheered stones that make it so.

No one here says mountains don’t speak, nor lakes
whisper back—birds know, trees hear

rippled reflections
pass on the lips of resident winds.



Summer Solstice

Our first backpacking trip of the season
begins at Clover Meadows in the high Sierra
at just over seven thousand feet,

a walk on the year’s longest day 
that draws on all of our reserves, all of our resolve,

only to deliver a stunning display of stars
for a late night supper
and a long, dreamless sleep.



Lady Lake 8,500 ft.

Thresholds crossed are worlds re-seen
from places we’re often unaware we’ve arrived.
But not here. Unawareness has no place

in a place like this, where, having come,
being seen is a given, and being seen as having come
is itself re-seeing.


On the bluff above Chittenden Lake 9,400 ft.

The quiet founded in thin air and high thriving rock
is as complete a refuge as one will find, itself the answer
to the mystery—given all the effort, why we continue
to return, but to again be taken in.


Things that will last…
after Kenneth Rexroth

We spend our last day and night
at the Madera Creek junction,
where the Fernandez Trail meets
the Walden in the flat
among the lodge pole pines
at the end of a valley meadow
that runs aside the creek below
a towering volcanic formation
studded with twisted juniper pine,
a small meadow
traced with quivering aspen,
low-growing buckwheat, wild flowers,
butterflies and humming birds.

The creek is lined with willow and lupine
and filled with hungry trout.

But for the creek and woodpeckers
and when wind, the trees, it’s quiet.

How to be here is a matter of who you are.
The place absorbs all who come, goes on its own way
when we’re gone, needing no prophets to tell it so. 



Some turns crinkle, even bind
just a bit, some go so smooth
the view is the only proof

of change—change being
the nature of nature, notions of sameness
are inherently false limitations

risen from simple inattention.



For lack of paper and brush,
that Zen-struck poet, Ryokan,

is said to have practiced calligraphy
in the air—sweeps of soundless poems

spewed out on the restless tongue
of wind-filled skies.


is the gift of recognition
properly received.


Of most importance
is where the foot that’s risen
will fall.


the third way
to cultivate…

to live-listening
to the world and to what
it is waiting to be…




Skin, under the touch
of wind, of sun, under loving eyes…

The presence of turning
to another’s needs—having been useful…

The thought of the sound
of the grandchild’s voice, remembrance
of the name…

The glint of rising sun
bringing the final line of the poem



Sneaking out under the blaze of late afternoon sun,
ocean fogs run the length of the ridge,

white flags of promise of relief,
evidence of the possible

seeding shifting undercurrents, windows,
cupped and readied for release…

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New poems

Poems 2014

Late April

The window in the room where my books stay, where eveningtimes
I chant, is the only in the house that faces east, looking out across the street
to homes at rest on a slope that rises a hundred feet and more,

so the direct touch of east-coming sunlight happens only during this time
of long arcs of high sun, and even then only for a few minutes easily missed
for their quiet, unassuming passing.

But for those who attend, the season offers more, 
for as the sun drops to the last of its arc and begins to fill the horizon,
the west-facing windows on the eastern slope across the way

catch this final light and cast it back again in luminous moments
of shadow gold mosaic that glide and stroke their way through the room
like the vision of a lover’s breath leaving a departing kiss.


It’s not that I think
this is center universe,

but that nothing
ever goes by unnoticed,

except that
I think it does.


Their opinions…

strongly held or just passing,
are no more worthless

than our own,
good friend.


Slowly thinking, I see…

it’s only those movements true
to the human heart

that sustain —the poem

is not words, Buddha
not a name.


A prayer for Buddha Day, April 25, 2014

After days of unrelenting winds,
of trailing leaves and limbs, this morning

contains its breath in that slender light
before the coming sun

to lend itself to the single stalk,
the singular petal, to blossom 

standing alone

and to whisper to each
its name—Buddha, Buddha, Buddha...

Namuamidabutsu, Namuamidabutsu, Namuamidabutsu…



Opening the kitchen cabinet door
to find the heart at rest

is not a matter of finding more, 
but seeing deeper, clearer detail

that reveals the more already there
—like the sudden sight of dust alight

on air gone gold on sun gone down
that strikes a light behind the eyes

inside the heart

where space and time and ordinary place
are made to be known anew.



Because the streams of light
that touch the hand that holds the pen
that glints the words that glide the page
to scratch a smile to lips then kissed
by morning’s prayer.



the door lets
in the air

it carries:

be careful.



to retire, to retreat
to where Saturday or Monday are enjoyed
for no more than their sound
when spoken aloud: morning, waking, light.

The scratch of bird feet at roof’s edge,
your breathing—silent rivulets bob petals
open along the outside sill—the fluttered shadow
of last night’s dream come home,

the promise of stillness fulfilled.


California’s Natural History

Even at an age of ten to twelve million years,
scientists think of California’s Sierra Range as young,

still gaining in height and maturity—how silly then
for me ever to feel too old to walk its trails,

to think of my growth
ever being even near finished.



The spider web
outside the window
whispers with streams
that even bamboo leaves
have yet to hear.


6/13—a Friday

where even the most distant of  possibilities
seems close and at hand

and the silver taste of calm warms the mouth
with psalm-like sound

and appreciation deepens…



Can I know
that flower

but not know

its name—let me
count the ways…


Thoughts on revision…

to the extent attempted,
to find and to ride the breath
as light and clean as it allows,
to follow that trail, where it leads,
and no more…



In the dim light of early morning,
the crinkled turn of the last of the journal’s pages
spells melancholy anticipation,

like breath unburdened
in open-handed sky remembers its source
in letting go,

its deepest nature always working through, always
working through the lift and delight
of the myriad questions posed

even in the face of the answer
already freely given.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

To open windows...2014


Most often,
just blue streaks.
But they hop too.



coming in touch
with another’s

And furthermore, when

begin to chafe

and one does not
think to run,

maybe even



The calendar says spring,
but outside, petals quietly pry

open the crisp grip
of the last of winter’s chill.



May breaks 
with salmon-gold 

and feint splotches
of dusty white

buckeye blossoms 
beginning to bloom.


Have you ever noticed,
on these mornings when

windows have been open
through the night,

how dogs bark
almost-songs, how

children’s voices
waver the air, how

auto engines
turning over

sound the signature
of comfort ?


For Hayden Carruth    5/3

I wouldn’t have thought of it that way
if you hadn’t have spoken like that, but yes,

“acts of love,” gestures made in spite of ourselves,
because of ourselves, in light of their “impossible 

indispensability.” The unmistakable,
if mysterious, clarity of intent

to give in kind,
of that received as gift.



Night’s winds drop away in the space of a breath.
At the turn of the head, morning’s quiet pulls eyes skyward
to the last of the stars to hold.

What might it mean to be readied to die into the light,
to be taken in to a way of death beyond shadow,
a singular sliver of light, lingered, then slipping back.


fog is air gone
to water not yet—still,
we breathe, get wet


Last year’s kale served us most of four months
in soups and salads, stir-fried and mixed, and crisped
in the oven for the grandkids,

never once complaining, nor wavering, neither asking,
nor receiving anything in return,
till now.



You’d think at seventy
I’d have given up following
this pestering pull, but here find myself
sitting on the floor, knees folded, thumbs touching,
breathing—not wondering, until now, how
much more might be left to let go, figuring,
as before, I’ll somehow know.


For the Poet-Monk, Gensei
--don’t call my poems, “poems”    5/12

The early signals of truly warm days
are as distinctive as the pull of a known name
just before its sounding,

an unmistakable taste, prior to, that somehow
nonetheless fully partakes—like the earliest hint
of heart’s wonder, the flutter before flight,

like the shadow that prefigures
the moon’s halo.


Buckeye Canyon
San Bruno Mountain   5/16

The grassy slopes are mostly brown now,
summer’s color, studded with shrub,
oak of all size and bay in canyons and gullies.

Even without traffic, trails have turned
to hard pack that lasts through till winter.

Walking in this place on weekdays,
one will meet with many spider webs
and invisible pockets of nectar filled air
that speak to the long held influence
of native buckeye. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Colorado Springs Journal

April 2014


We’ve changed, sure, the age part easy after forty years,
now two old men fumbling around dark roads off the airport,

two white beards flapping into morning hours
over wheat beer long gone warm—we’ve changed,

to be sure, but been given more
than the flash of an evening
to figure how much space, time,

really mean between friends—that first meeting of eyes
having already told how little.



Sweet, the light the morning lays among the pines, needle thin
touches of sunglow green against the brown, barren slopes
of winter’s restless waiting for a fickle spring.

Stocking caps, open coats, day packs, pass over cemented walks,
tracing movement toward the endless stretch of high mountain prairie,
matched only by the arced mantle of cloud-brushed, pale blue sky.

Time collects in times like this, mountain sentinels at watch at the edge
as past pushes to present, sends signals to a future just beyond reach
but just there just the same—a soft yet certain immediacy

where regret holds no weight and the simple nod
or bow are the work and the spell of wonder.



The walks are clear at first light,
last night’s snow on porch rails, in patches
on the grass.

High clouds whisper of future blue and the pen
threads thanks for the myriad reasons
that bring me here.


Here in Red Rock Canyon Open Space,
where Sand Canyon Trail loops to another
known as Contemplative—where deer watch.


The Knowls at Sweetgrass4/18

At 6,000 feet, boiled water doesn’t hold its heat,
so cups of coffee shouldn’t be let to linger too long.

At 6 A.M., pink brushes the sky, frost the shingled roofs,
and bared branches search the air for signs.

I’ve chanted Buddha’s name many places, many times,
and there’s always a resonance in the chest.

Though it couldn’t be said it’s always the same,
there’s this resonance deep in the chest.

It feels like the sounds of home.


Mt. Cutler Trail—6,000-7,200’

Walking slowly up through the rise of red rock,
he says ashes will be dropped here one day—the few
who know now include me—snow falls.


Garden of the Gods—4/19

For Kathi

Wheelchairs have their own way,
pulling at times, and at others
needing a push. Either way, though not testing,
they let you know their mind and thus expose to you
your own—strengths and weaknesses
turned in the touch of the same sun
ready the path for the new work—no one let go,
no one left behind.


Most always, Pike’s Peak hovers.
Sometimes it hides as passing clouds
find their way around. Sometimes,

on days like today, it glistens
crinkled snowfields,

while along the streets, in the corners
of earth-scratched yards,
trees begin to bud.


Easter Morning

As grey turns to light, the sky
restates its promise; as the lamp
behind my head reflects its shadow
in the window looking out, the pine
lets go to stillness; as the petals
of the flowers on the table at my side
open, songs of renewal return;
as the hands of the heart
spread the wish to restore,
old friends dream of healing;
as the scratch of the pen
marks the swirl of prayer,
birds take to the air.


North Cheyenne Canyon—for Ted

are you brothers,
they asked,

Yes, we said,
Blood Brothers,
best friends

(different mothers).



The full around completeness of hour
upon hour fully lived

resists even the most well-intentioned
attempt to word—fractured

fragments, restless guesses, flutter
mute—tongue and pen

gone silent—nothing left
old man, but to bow.


end note…and yet…

the match in flame is as fire-full
as forest ablaze, water’s drops whole
as ocean, a single breath, a passing thought
complete a silence as sky.

Ask, if you must, where
the moment takes us, but not
what’s missing.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Notes along the way...

The thin curve of moon echoes.
Owls chorus dark-soaked streets.

Fogs advance to the edge
of the thirst

of grass,
offer just enough.


I once visited Ryokan’s hermitage,
where poems with names of simpler times
came alive with the sounds of cicada,
thumbnail frogs, humid shade and moss
covering the stones.


Shimmering pools
light intersections, passing tires

whisper warnings no one hears
but me.


Damp with the hum of solitude,
rains arrive in the night,
confuse the sleeping streets.


True self

Like the almond tree in the front yard
blossoms fully in late February
because it’s warm.


Learning early on
we couldn’t control her spirit,
we tried all we could to manage
the world about her
and couldn’t do that either.


The lights at night in the hills
never speak aloud, never call for more
than those who turn and who linger
with those lights, lingering back.


Delhi, the Sikh soup kitchen

25,000 mouths a day,
seven days a week,
come rain or come shine.
No one pays, no one paid,
no one turned away.


Jamba, Northwest India

Sometimes it hurts, almost,
to not sing long, melodious sighs
aloud. Like now,

as the sun sets clouds to silver, to grey,
the desert finally to shadow,
the sky from blue to black,
to silently stud itself
with stars.


Mumbai, at the Taj Hotel—the tour brings us here,
along the bay, across from the famed Gateway
to India, down the street from the corner
where families sleep on the sidewalk,
babies bare-assed in the dawn.


Kochin: what Westerners often miss…

the mist along the shores of the Arabian Sea
that lifts with light’s arrival, leaves puddles
to drink last night’s dusty streets—

tropical birdcalls, slippered feet
and harboring ships that sound
in morning’s warmth 

like a lover’s breath,
moist and pulsed
with heart.


How nightmares are made:

In the dream I write a poem
they want me to tell;

when it doesn’t go well,
they want to help…


Udaipar reflection

The sun drops, river waters silver
in changing light

and foolishness announces itself
by leaving.


Prompted by the ever-unfolding face
of personal circumstance,
the primary conversation
is always the internal—even
in the collective, we choose alone
how to live—this, who we are,
is our freedom.


“What does it mean.
This is not a question,
but an exclamation.”

                   Kenneth Rexroth,
                     The Same Poem Over and Over

The collective is one
of primal kin—not singular one
but wholeness in relation,
meaning in movement realized
in connection—no one thing ever lost
to another—like stars to sky, earth to heaven,
like gravity, foot-fall. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Tradition of All Experience

Before what we call morning,
there’s another that lives
where dark turns,

where doubt finds room
near the surface, 
or along the shore

where light weighs time,
lays claim to all experience
as its own.


And so, I’ve taken the pen at times,
at different times so many times
that the weight and heft

often remains un-discerned,

nor separate a charge from heartbeat
or the lift and rise of pulse—such it has become
of its own so thorough, so as to

reframe the world, steady the step
and simplify the things that need be carried.


“…because every syllable counts.”
                                       Cid Corman

The thrust of our living
letting loose our careening way

propelled and re-propelled millions
of little moves—is who we are—countless

the triggers off those little moves:

the greater mystery
               of who we will be.


Words—swarms of bees and honey—


It would be,
it is,

enough to say 

I don’t know…


Blue ink
marks the page
a way
beyond black
and yet
close akin
to remind
one of
the other

as tracks
swirls and
broken lines
make their
own way

there on lines
that now here

hold weight and light:

a single point
in all time.


To turn
right there
and meet
the eyes

of the friend

you’d been
for all

don’t let go
that look…


The glint of moonlight
  on the rim of the bowl
     on the table at my feet

—at times a lonely way,     
         but never alone.


Fog collects thick as doubt
this morning. Even the closest trees,
rootless, shadowy slips, like distant cousins,
reliant upon familial resemblance.


One rejects nothing, the other
accepts everything.

Different times, different tongues,
linked on the lure of language in line.

And for each,
though treating margins differently,

each day begins
a blank page, listening.


Answering the last hours of dark on the mountain’s trails,
sitting among the chilled stones, watching light
begin its work,

earth’s textures, what night holds safe, why stars
lean so close, how morning returns
already full.


There are days when utterance crumbles
as it meets the air, when the most careful intention
stays jagged and torn and reliable lies just beyond reach.

On these days, let grip slip to those slower movements,
to those recesses deeper than doubt, return to that refinement
where inevitable resides.


And what if the world arrives,
full distance of all time, present
at your doorstep?


Mist and low-hanging clouds.
The moon, a luminous smudge.

But the owl calls, quick to scold
those who turn away too soon.